Governor Proposes Property Tax Relief for Wyoming Seniors

CHEYENNE, Wyo., October 18, 2007 — In an effort to move long-stalled efforts at property tax relief, Governor Dave Freudenthal is proposing a constitutional amendment that would lower taxes for Wyoming homeowners 65 years of age and older.

“For several decades Wyoming governors and legislators have struggled to provide property tax relief – particularly for Wyoming’s older citizens wishing to remain in their family home, in spite of the increasing taxable value of their home,” Freudenthal said in a letter to the legislature’s Management Council.

“Many good faith efforts have simply failed, in large part due to the restrictions in the Wyoming Constitution,” he added. “I believe it is time to ask the voters if they want to amend the Constitution to allow future legislators to authorize homeowner tax relief.”

The amendment would exempt one half of the fair market value of an individual or couple’s principal residence, with an upper limit of $100,000 of fair market value. The exemption could be claimed by a homeowner who is at least 65 years of age, and who has lived in the home for at least ten years.

A senior living in a home with a fair market value of $200,000, for example, would pay property taxes based on only $100,000 of that value. The reduction in property taxes for the senior would be approximately $638 per year, based on an average statewide mill levy on residential real property of 67.135 mills.

Under the proposal, homeowners would apply to county assessors, who would determine eligibility. The state would compensate counties for reduced property tax revenues.

Freudenthal’s proposal was researched and drafted at the governor’s request by Al Minier, Chairman of the Wyoming Board of Equalization. The governor encouraged legislators to contact Minier with questions regarding the draft.

Although it is difficult to predict the cost of the program, Minier forecasts the annual cost to be between $15 and $18 million.

The proposed constitutional amendment has been posted on the governor’s web site. Also posted on the site is proposed language for a bill that would implement the program if the amendment were to be approved by Wyoming voters. The site also includes a question and answer explanation of the proposal – which is patterned after a program in Colorado – as well as additional background materials.

The proposed constitutional amendment would first have to be placed on the ballot by the legislature. If approved by the voters, the legislature would have the authority to implement and fund the program.

For extensive background information, click here

The Governor’s letter follows below.

October 18, 2007

Members of the 59th Wyoming State Legislature
Capitol Building
Cheyenne, WY 82002

RE: Possible Constitutional Amendment for Property Tax Relief

Dear Members:

For several decades Wyoming governors and legislators have struggled to provide property tax relief – particularly for Wyoming’s older citizens wishing to remain in their family home, in spite of the increasing taxable value of their home.

Many good faith efforts have simply failed, in large part due to the restrictions in the Wyoming Constitution. I believe it is time to ask the voters if they want to amend the Constitution to allow future legislators to authorize homeowner tax relief. Broad-based tax relief proposals have not fared particularly well in past years. Hence, this proposed amendment is narrowly drafted to address the group for which the greatest concern has been expressed – namely the older residents hoping to remain in the family home. The proposal was developed at my request by Al Minier, Chair of the State Board of Equalization. It would allow for 50% residential property tax relief for citizens 65 or older who have lived in their residence for the last 10 years. The 50% relief is limited to $200,000 of fair market value. This would result in a savings of approximately $630 per year on average.

We have placed extensive information on the background for the proposal on our website at 4 days ago
I look forward to working with you on this important issue. I am urging your consideration of this issue in the 2008 legislative session because of the process mandated for placing amendments before the voters for their consideration. As you know, proposed constitutional amendments can only be considered by the voters at a general election. General elections are in even numbered years which, unfortunately, are also the year set for the short legislative session.

Best regards,
Dave Freudenthal
Governor

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