In The News › Jeff prepares tax break for disabled veterans

Mar 16, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Jeff prepares tax break for disabled veterans

Exemption would be $150,000

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Richard Rainey
The Times-Picayune

Fully disabled military veterans in Jefferson Parish could see their homestead exemptions double to $150,000, should the Parish Council agree to put the tax break on the Oct. 22 ballot and voters approve it.

The referendum, spawned by a state constitutional amendment approved in November, targets home-owning veterans who are entirely unable to work because of their injuries. Should they die, the expanded exemption would pass to their spouses.

“These (veterans) have sacrificed almost everything, especially their bodies, for the benefit of the country,” said council Chairman Tom Capella. “This is the least we can do.”

Capella said he plans to introduce the tax break resolution at today’s council meeting at the General Government Building in Gretna. If approved, Jefferson will join St. Charles Parish as one of the first to act on the amendment. St. Charles voters are scheduled to consider it April 30.

The current law exempts $75,000 of the assessed value for every property owner’s principle residence. Doubling it for disabled veterans would be a boon to veterans, said Terrence Flick, secretary and treasurer of a local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans organization.

“With the veterans, I would say, that would be a tremendous help,” he said.

Flick said it could help a portion of the roughly 900 members of his chapter, based in Metairie. There are three other chapters in the New Orleans area, he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs designates a veteran’s level of disability to manage compensation.

Capella said he didn’t have an estimate of how many fully disabled veterans owned homes in Jefferson. He also wasn’t sure what effect the exemption would have on the parish finances. But it doesn’t matter, he said.

“The government will have to do with less,” he said.

The veterans’ exemption didn’t pass the Legislature last year without opposition. The Bureau for Governmental Research argued that veterans’ benefits are a federal jurisdiction and that the state law unfairly excludes veterans who don’t own property and the families of service members killed in action.

“I can tell you our position hasn’t changed,” bureau President Janet Howard said Tuesday.

Expanding the homestead exemption has been a political white whale, especially in Jefferson Parish, where former Assessor Lawrence Chehardy made it the cause of his career. Now, three of the four candidates vying to succeed Chehardy — Capella, real estate agent Al Leone and Mary Chehardy, the former assessor’s aunt — have taken up the clarion. R.A. “Skip” Galan also is in the race, but he hasn’t proposed an increase.

Capella said his proposed referendum has nothing to do with burnishing his political accomplishments during the campaign season. Discussions within the council about introducing it began as soon as the constitutional amendment went into effect Jan. 1, he said.

“This is part of my job as a councilman of this parish,” he said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Mar 16, 2011

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Jefferson Parish, Taxation & Assessments

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