State Question 714 could bring some relief to senior homeowners

Monday, August 23rd 2004, 10:32 am
By: News On 6

Buying a house is a big part of the American dream, but for some it's not coming true. Many senior citizens are finding out that even when their house is paid off, their insurance and tax burdens are almost as much as their house payment was.

News on 6 business reporter Steve Berg says Gene and Joan Stafford bought their midtown Tulsa house in 1974. The house hasn't changed a lot. But the property taxes have. "Well, they just automatically increase, and my earning power hasn't increased in years."

There in lies the problem for seniors. Many are on a fixed income, but living longer than ever before. Meanwhile, Stafford says his property taxes go up the maximum 5% nearly every year. "Pretty soon that gets out of hand."

Stafford says together taxes and insurance are about half of what his house payment was and rising. The end result is you never really do pay off your house. "There ought to be a happy medium somewhere."

Right now, seniors have to have a gross household income less than $25,000 to qualify for property tax relief. But legislators have put State Question 714 on the November ballot. It would increase that income threshold to whatever the median income is for the metro area.

If they make less, senior citizens' house values would be frozen at whatever the value is when they're 65.They call it the senior freeze. But the idea warms the Staffords' hearts. State officials are quick to caution seniors that county "mills" can still go up. But at least their house valuation would not.

Again, State Question 714 will be on the ballot on November 2nd.