A new bill pending action in the House of Representatives would nearly double the tax relief for Delaware senior homeowners.
Currently, most First State seniors’ property owners can use the seniors’ real estate tax credit. The maximum credit amount is half of the recipient’s tax liability or $400 (whichever is less). The state reimburses local school districts for any lost revenue resulting from the credit.
Until 2017, the maximum property tax credit for seniors was $500. Faced with a large budget deficit that year, state legislators wrote into the budget a 20% ($100) appropriation cut. The cut has been included in every budget since, despite the strong rebound in state revenue.
Since the current fiscal year (fiscal year 2022) began on July 1, state revenue forecasts have jumped dramatically. In the past six months, the state’s nonpartisan Delaware Financial and Economic Advisory Council (DEFAC) has twice raised the state’s revenue forecast for the current and future fiscal years, boosting total revenue of $820 million.
The state was in a similar fiscal position last year, enacting a record operating budget of $4.771 billion (a 5.43% increase), a record capital budget of $1.35 billion (a 90% increase) and a separate Supplementary Supply Bill containing $221.1 million in “one-time expenditures.
“State revenue is up, and that’s not including the massive amount of relief money we’ve received from the federal government,” said state Rep. Kevin Hensley (R-Townsend, Odessa, Port Penn). “We have also smartly put money aside for bad weather and reserve accounts to take appropriate precautions for the future. Now, I believe the state has an obligation to share its good fortune with its citizens.
Recently introduced by Rep. Hensley, House Bill 287 increase the property tax credit for seniors to $750. “By virtue of their lifetime contributions, no group of citizens has collectively paid more taxes than our elders,” he said. “At a time when the state is teeming with cash, there is no excuse not to provide modest tax relief to our elderly population, many of whom now live on fixed incomes.”
Representative Hensley’s proposal joins another measure, House Bill 108, seeking to make a significant change to the property tax credit for seniors. This latest bill, sponsored by State Rep. Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek South), would restore the senior property tax credit to its pre-2017 maximum of $500. A tax memo completed last year reveals the bill would bring more than $4.2 million a year to eligible Delaware seniors.
The analysis of the amount of money that will be withheld by taxpayers under Rep. Hensley’s bill is not yet complete.
Both measures are pending action in the House Administration Committee.