GEORGETOWN — Totally disabled veterans meeting eligibility criteria will not only be exempt from paying school tax but also Sussex County property tax under a piggyback ordinance proposal introduced to County Council on Tuesday.
County Finance Director/Chief Operating Officer Gina Jennings and its billing/collections manager, Katrina Mears, outlined the pitch, which mirrors the state’s property tax credit signed by Gov. John Carney on Aug. 10.
That legislation — House Bill 214 with House Amendment 1 — does not exempt veterans from the county portion of property tax bills.
However, with approval, the new ordinance would allow Sussex County to offer a property value-based tax credit for totally disabled county veterans who meet certain criteria.
“Currently, the state has legislation to exempt the veteran from school district taxes only, beginning in 2022. The county ordinance will exempt the county’s taxes, too,” said Ms. Jennings. “The ordinance will exempt veterans with a 100% disability rating from county property taxes if they qualify for the state program.”
These exemptions also would take effect in 2022. This program is not retroactive, so it would start with the upcoming tax bill that will be effective in July 2022, Ms. Mears said.
The state’s application process is to begin next month, through counties’ billing divisions. Eligible veterans must apply by April 30.
Councilman Doug Hudson formally introduced the proposal Tuesday, and Council President Michael Vincent said, “I think it’s a good program.”
As proposed, the county’s initiative would piggyback off the state’s. “So if a veteran qualifies for the state, they will automatically qualify for the county program,” Ms. Mears said.
The tax credit program:
“They have to live there … and have primary residence here in Delaware at that address,” Ms. Mears said.
Under the state program, Delaware reimburses school districts for the taxes not collected because of the exemption, Ms. Jennings said.
Sussex Technical High School and other technical schools in the state are not part the school tax exemption.
Ms. Jennings said each school board — other than technical schools — had to vote whether they were going to participate and then have the state reimburse them. “All the school districts voted to approve it. They are going to get the money,” she said.
County research through the Delaware Office of Veterans Services revealed that, as of August, there were 515 veterans living in Sussex County who were considered 100% disabled, Ms. Mears said.
“The state estimated that about 75% of those veterans are homeowners,” she added.
Based on the county’s 2021 assessments, the average residential assessment is $25,280, and the average county portion of the residential bill is $112.50.
The estimated cost to the county for implementing this tax credit is $43,537 per year. Ms. Mears noted that this amount represents 0.002% of the total annual bills for county tax and library tax.
The tax credit proposal will come back before council for discussion at a later date.