Homer may extend borough tax exemption to local disabled vets

Disabled veterans and those they leave behind may soon be added to the list of people in Homer who can get greater property tax exemptions.

Through the consent agenda at its Sept. 11 meeting, the Homer City Council introduced ordinance 17-33, which would bring the city in line with code already in use by the Kenai Peninsula Borough with regard to taxes.

Disabled veterans are already exempt from the first $150,000 of assessed property value according to Alaska Statute.

The ordinance would update the city’s code to include disabled veterans and their surviving spouses with those eligible for the property tax exemptions offered at the borough level.

“A disabled veteran, or a resident at least 60 years old who is the widow or widower of such person, is exempt from taxation in an unlimited amount,” according to the borough’s code.

Borough residents who are 65 or older are also exempt from property taxes up to $300,000.

Council member David Lewis brought up some holes or imbalances the ordinance could potentially create, though he said he is in favor of the measure.

He spoke of people who are disabled through work-related or other injuries who may be just as deserving of a tax exemption but would be left out of this ordinance.

“Are we by doing this creating like a second-class citizen? If you are disabled from your service, you get a tax break. If you are disabled from working even though you have been a great, great person, you don’t,” he said. “And it’s not that I am against this, it’s just that we’re creating sort of an uneven balance here.”

Lewis also worried about veterans who do not receive an official disabled designation when they leave the military, but who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder or other disabilities related to their service, who would be left out of the exemption opportunity.

Council member Tom Stroozas described the ordinance as an olive branch and a thank you to disabled veterans for their service.

“The borough has been doing it and there (are) requirements for an individual who is disabled military to be able to get this,” he said. “Number one they have to be (able) to get a permanent fund (dividend), so we’re not just exempting anybody who wants to come into our area right away.”

According to the ordinance text, there were 10 disabled veterans in the city in 2017 who had primary homes with assessed values greater than the $150,000 already exempted by state statute.

Ordinance 17-33 is scheduled for public hearing at the council’s Monday, Sept. 25 meeting at Homer City Hall.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.