SAN ANTONIO – A West Side councilor wants senior homeowners who volunteer at senior centers and libraries to have their property tax bills reduced.
District 5 Councilor Teri Castillo submitted a Council Consideration Request (CCR) on Wednesday, asking city staff to develop a pilot program for homeowners 65 and older to reduce their property tax bills. in exchange for volunteering for the city.
State Law allows cities and other taxing agencies to authorize senior homeowners to perform services for the taxing agency in lieu of payment. For every hour volunteered, the homeowner can earn a credit on their property tax bill at the federal minimum hourly wage rate, which is currently $7.25 per hour.
Volunteering 42 hours over a year, for example, would reduce the municipal portion of the owner’s bill by just over $300.
“And $300 to $500 is no small feat for many of our seniors in the city of San Antonio. It’s the difference between their utilities, groceries, medicine or all of the above,” Castillo told KSAT.
“So we have to keep in mind that there are people who are already doing this work for free, and we have the opportunity to offer this property tax relief to people who come to our senior centers and who volunteered to receive an incentive for their work. “Castillo said.
The councilwoman said other cities in Texas have explored similar options but don’t know of any that have adopted one. However, she cited the example of Boston, which allows its senior owners to stand up for $1,500 tax abatement through volunteering.
The CCR provides examples of possible volunteer activities such as:
Storage/organization of books in public libraries
Read to others
Answer the phone at local senior and community centers
Low impact public art exhibits
Participate in arts and recreation classes/activities at seniors and community centers
Provide conversations, outreach and education to other local seniors
The city should determine the number of volunteer hours a senior could get credit for and the number of people allowed to participate.
The counselor says the program, which she called the San Antonio Volunteer Exemption for Seniors (SAVES) program, could do more than offer financial assistance.
“So it’s also an incentive to – firstly, bring our seniors back to our senior centers. But there’s also an opportunity to address this isolation that many seniors share within our community,” Castillo said.
Castillo asked city staff to provide a recommendation for the program in time to be discussed as part of the fiscal year 2023 budget process. Budget discussions began in April and council will likely pass a budget in September, before the start of its fiscal year on October 1.
In the meantime, Castillo’s request will first have to be considered by the city council’s governance committee.
The CCR was also signed by D4 Advisor Adriana Rocha Garcia, D6 Advisor Melissa Cabello Havrda, D9 Advisor John Courage and D10 Advisor Clayton Perry.
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