AS CITY COUNCIL took a step toward extending the deadline to apply for the homestead exemption under the city's new property-tax system, the Nutter administration said yesterday it plans to step up outreach efforts, including sending home information about the exemption with students' report cards.
Council gave preliminary approval to two bills yesterday, including one sponsored by Council President Darrell Clarke that would extend the deadline to apply for the exemption - from July 31 to Sept. 13.
Under the Actual Value Initiative, the exemption would lower the taxable value of homes by $30,000 (Nutter has proposed lowering the exemption to $15,000.) Another bill sponsored by Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell would allow anyone who buys a house after the September deadline to apply for an exemption until Dec. 1.
Of the 340,000 eligible residential property owners, only 57 percent have been approved for a homestead exemption. Another 8 percent of applications were denied or returned for additional information.
City officials are working with the school district to send home information about the homestead exemption with students. They are also exploring the creation of "street teams" that would be equipped with iPads to help people apply online while they wait at bus stops.
And they're considering removing the words "homestead exemption" from the materials.
"We're simplifying the message around the homestead," said Anna Adams, chief of staff for the Finance Department. "The word 'homestead exemption' is a complicated term, so we're changing the language on the form to say, 'Do you want a discount on your real-estate tax or your property tax, to save you money?' "