Thousands of senior citizens have applied for a property tax break that Gov. Ted Strickland says will be paid for using the sale of Ohio’s share of a landmark settlement with tobacco companies, officials said.
The expanded Homestead Exemption Program took effect earlier this month as part of Ohio’s two-year, $52 billion operating budget.
It allows people 65 and older – or those deemed permanently or totally disabled – to shield the first $25,000 of a home’s value from property taxes.
The program previously had income restrictions on eligibility. Changes to the law are expected to increase the number of Ohioans who qualify from 220,000 to 775,000, saving the average eligible Ohioan about $400.
Around the state, about 6,000 have applied in Franklin County, which includes Columbus; 8,000 in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland; and 2,200 people have asked for forms by mail or applied in Lucas County, which includes Toledo.
“This is a very happy group of people calling our office these last two weeks,” said Franklin County Auditor Joe Testa.
The expanded program will automatically apply to those who previously signed up, Testa said. The state will reimburse schools and other agencies that rely on the tax dollars, he said.
Some auditors are handing out fliers and application forms at festivals, senior centers and at churches. Testa said he plans to pass them out at the Franklin County Fair, which began this week.
Strickland’s plan calls for selling the state’s share of the national tobacco lawsuit settlement to investors for a lump-sum payment he believes could fetch $5 billion.