Erie County Auditor Tom Paul is urging all Erie County homeowners age 65 and older to apply quickly to make sure they obtain a $400 reduction in their property taxes.
The new state budget that went into effect this month expands the Homestead Exemption to everyone who will be at least 65 in 2007.
Previously, the Homestead Exemption had an income test which disqualified most seniors.
The Homestead Exemption also applies to Ohioans certified as permanently and totally disabled as of Jan. 1 and to the surviving spouse of a qualified homeowner who was 59 when his or her spouse died.
The Homestead Exemption means that qualified homeowners can shield the first $25,000 of the market value of their homes from property taxes. While the amount of savings will vary according to local tax rates, the Ohio Department of Taxation says the reduction should average about $400 per homeowner.
Homeowners eligible for the first time for the Homestead Exemption must apply by Oct. 1.
Perhaps it might be best to go ahead and send in the applications rather than wait until late September, Paul suggests.
"We want everybody to get the forms in," he said.
Paul said he has the necessary forms on hand at his office, located on the second floor of the county's office building, 247 Columbus Ave., downtown Sandusky. The office is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.
The forms also are available online at the auditor's Web site, erie.iviewtaxmaps.com. Click either "Homestead" or "Forms & Publications" on the left side of the page to obtain the form.
Erie County is home to many retired auto workers who, because of their hard work, have a decent income and could not obtain the tax break until now, Paul said.
The Ohio Department of Taxation says the changes in state law should expand the number of Ohioans who qualify for the tax benefit from about 220,000 to 775,000.
"The Homestead Exemption will deliver real tax relief for hundreds of thousands of senior citizens who never before qualified," said Tax Commissioner Richard Levin.
Information on the tax break and contact information for all Ohio county auditors is available at the Ohio Department of Taxation Web site, tax.ohio.gov.