As property taxes rise, one neighborhood campaigns to ensure its elders can afford to stay

By Erin Stryka and Kimberly Hunter

Over the last several years, Kansas City, Kansas has seen new life and revitalization come into its neighborhoods. But while these neighborhoods are cleaner, safer, and more beautiful, a new problem has moved in: rising property taxes. And these taxes are taking a toll on our most vulnerable community members, such as disabled and elderly residents.

This includes residents like Rosedale senior, Jim Needham, who is concerned about the skyrocketing property taxes in his neighborhood. “I purchased [my] house for $22,000 in 1994 through the federal CHIPS program,” Needham said. “…My house was appraised at $61,000 in 2016, but this year it’s $70,500. So I’m appealing it. That’s too much of a jump.”

Jim Needham 3
Tax rebates bring relief to senior homeowners in Wyandotte County, like Jim Needham, shown here in front of his home with his cat, Princess.

A few little-known property tax rebates could empower community elders to age in place, even as they appeal their property values. The Rosedale Development Association (RDA) is helping its fixed-income seniors access these cost-saving opportunities.

Because RDA believes that safe, affordable housing is critical to healthy living, they sent a postcard to every home in their neighborhood explaining how seniors could qualify and apply for three different programs.

Part of RDA’s vision is to be a community where all people feel safe and connected and live in quality neighborhoods. Regular, informative mailings is one strategy they find effective for educating residents about resources that can improve quality of life.

Long-time Rosedale resident, mental health care provider, and new RDA Board member Ally Mabry said: “I want our neighborhood to stay affordable for all, safe for children and people from all walks of life, and be a place where residents don’t have to go to other communities to access resources.”

Needham is excited to share the news with everyone, too.

“It’s easy to apply,” he said. “…I’m surprised more seniors don’t know about it and don’t use it… The information is out there, but people have to be responsible for getting it or they’ll miss out. I found out about it years ago from my mother, who’s gone now. … Now I tell all my neighbors about it.”

As seniors share what they learn, the campaign’s impact could reach far beyond Rosedale, since some programs apply to seniors throughout Kansas City and across the state of Kansas.

“Our mailing campaign has reached seniors with whom we’ve never before connected,” says Je T’aime Taylor, a Rosedale resident and RDA’s Healthy Kids Program Director. “Almost every day I receive a call from an elder asking how to apply for one of the rebates.”

How the Three Programs Work

Wyandotte County seniors may be eligible for refunds on property, utility and sales taxes. To be eligible for a Homestead Property Tax Refund of up to $700, a Kansas resident must have owned and occupied a home for all of 2017, had an annual household income of $34,450 or less, AND have been at least one of the following: born before January 1, 1962; totally and permanently blind or disabled for all of 2017; a host all year to a dependent child; a disabled veteran; the surviving, unmarried spouse of a disabled veteran; OR the surviving, unmarried spouse of an active duty military personnel who died in the line of duty.

Seniors may also be eligible for a Safe Senior Property Tax Refund of 75 percent of their property taxes. To qualify, they must be a Kansas resident who owned and occupied a home all of 2017, had an annual household income of $19,500 or less, were 65 years or older all of 2017, and had no delinquent property taxes in 2017. Please note individuals may claim either a Safe Senior Property or a Homestead tax refund, but not both.

Finally, Kansas City elders may be eligible for a Senior Citizens Utility Tax Rebate of up to $150 or an income-dependent City Sales Tax Refund if: their gross household income was $25,000 or less; are a resident of Kansas City, Kansas; and were 65 years or older all of 2017. For help applying, go to the Unified Government Clerk’s Office, Floor 3, Room 323, 701 North 7th Street, Kansas City, KS, 66101, between 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Assistance was available until March 31, but seniors can apply through the April 15 tax deadline. For more information, visit ksrevenue.org/perstaxtypeshs.html.

 

Erin Stryka is the Executive Director of Rosedale Development Association, and Kimberly Hunter is the Community Relations Coordinator for Rosedale Development Association

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