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Homestead Deadline Extension Gets Committee Approval

A City Council committee gave unanimous approval Wednesday to two bills – one that would extend until mid-September the deadline for homeowners to apply for the homestead exemption, and one that would allow people who buy homes after the new deadline to apply as well.

By mid-April, the city had received more than 287,000 homestead applications and approved more than 192,000, Finance Director Rob Dubow said. There are an estimated 340,000 homeowners who are eligible for the exemption, which deducts a set amount from a property's assessment before the tax rate is applied.

Mayor Nutter has backed a $15,000 exemption, while current law allows Council to set the exemption at $30,000. The exemption will be finalized as Council works on passing a budget by June 30.

Council and the administration want as many homeowners to take advantage of the tax break as possible. In some areas of the city, the exemption could mean the difference between a higher and a lower tax bill, as the city moves to a new property tax system this year.

The deadline to apply is now July 31; one of the bills passed out of committee Wednesday would extend the deadline to Sept. 13. That bill's main sponsor was Council President Darrell L. Clarke. Dubow said the administration was in favor of it as well.

The second bill, whose main sponsor was Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell, would give people who buy homes within 30 days of the Sept. 13 deadline and after the deadline the chance to apply for the homestead exemption. An application would have to be completed within 30 days of the sale and received by the city no later than Dec. 1.

If the Department of Revenue could not process the application before the tax bills are mailed at the end of November, the city would issue a rebate for the difference. Dubow spoke in favor of that bill as well.

Both bills will have their first reading before Council on Thursday and could pass into law next week.

The administration has planned a number of efforts to educate and encourage homeowners in the coming weeks to apply for the homestead exemption, including putting information and applications in the water bills.

The administration has been assuming that 80 percent of homeowners – about 280,000 of them – ultimately will sign up for the exemption this year, Dubow said.

"We'd actually like to go beyond that," he said.

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