Gibbons’ proposal funds senior tax rebates

CARSON CITY — While budgets of many state programs have been slashed, a popular program to give poorer senior citizens annual grants of as much as $500 has received a 20 percent boost in funding by the Gibbons administration.

Division of Aging Services administrator Carol Sala told legislators Friday that Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed a $2.4 million increase in the two-year budget for the Senior Property Tax Rebates program.

“It may seem like a little bit of money to some people, but $300 once a year can pay these peoples’ future property taxes or their medication,” she said. “We expect huge increases in applications.”

Under this program, people age 62 or older who receive less than $28,058 in annual income can get back each year up to $500 of what they paid in property taxes.

With the state facing budget cuts, grants were cut to as low as $300 last fall.

With the additional money — if approved by the Legislature — Sala said the average grants can be returned to the $340 level. The maximum will remain at $500.

There had been concern that the rebate program would be eliminated. The governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission had recommended that counties take over costs of the program. The commission reasoned that since counties receive far more property taxes than the state, then they should be handing out the rebates.

But Clark County balked at that idea, noting it had to trim programs at the University Medical Center because of revenue declines.

Besides additional funds for senior citizen tax rebates, Sala also said Gibbons has proposed spending $209,135 in state dollars to fill five vacant elder rights advocate positions. These positions have vacant because the federal government refused to continue funding them. Now there are three elder rights advocates in Clark County. With the additional funds, seven advocates will be based there.

People interested in the Senior Citizens Property Tax Rebate Program can pick up applications at their county assessor’s office. The enrollment period is between February and April. Rebates are based on what people paid in property taxes during the previous year.

Renters can also qualify for refunds. Their property taxes are computed as 8.5 percent of what they pay in rent.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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