In The News › Jefferson voters to decide Saturday on doubled homestead for disabled veterans

Jefferson voters to decide Saturday on doubled homestead for disabled veterans

November 15, 2011
By Jeff Adelson
The Times-Picayune
Voters in Jefferson Parish will determine Saturday whether fully disabled military veterans will have their homestead exemptions doubled.
The measure would give veterans who own and live in their home but who are unable to work because of their injuries a $150,000 exemption. If they die, their spouses could continue to claim the exemption.
“These guys and girls have done so much that it’s the least we can do,” said Assessor Tom Capella, who introduced the measure earlier this year when he was chairman of the Parish Council.
The referendum has its roots in a state ballot measure, passed last year, that lets individual jurisdictions determine whether to offer the tax break.
Jefferson has 81 residents who meet the qualifications for the doubled exemption, Capella said. They would see their tax bills drop by about $750 each, Capella said. Overall, that would cost the parish about $61,000.
“It’s not a tremendous amount of money,” Capella said. “It’s not going to bust a hole in anyone’s budget.”
The non-profit Bureau of Governmental Research opposes the measure, arguing that veterans’ benefits should be handled by the federal government. In addition, the measure creates what Janet Howard, the organization’s president, referred to as “serious fairness issues” because disabled veterans who rent will not see any benefit.
Howard said the bureau typically opposes any expansion of the homestead exemption, which subtracts $75,000 from the assessed valued of a homeowner’s primary residence before property taxes are applied, because it could affect the government’s ability to provide services or cause taxes to go up on those who don’t qualify.
“We do believe that members of the military (wh) are seriously disabled should get government assistance,” Howard said. However, it should not be the responsibility of local governments, she said.
Similar measures have had a good track record with voters this year. Residents in St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes overwhelmingly supported homestead exemption increases for disabled veterans in their parishes in October. About 70 percent of the voters in each parish voted in favor of theproposals.

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