By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City Council members are alarmed that a program aimed at easing the effects of the new property tax system is drawing a lukewarm response, and they want the deadline extended.
Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke says so far only about 50 percent of homeowners eligible for next year’s Homestead Exemption have signed up.
He believes that’s because many are senior citizens who don’t know about it or don’t understand it.
“What we’re finding out is that people basically need to be able to sit down and have conversation with individuals about how to fill it out. There are a lot of seniors who have a very, very difficult time understanding the format,” said Clarke.
Clarke has introduced a bill that will extend the application deadline from July 31st until September 30th.
Clarke said, “the worst thing that could happen is that we get to the July 31 deadline, and we have a significant number of people who have not applied. That would be really problematic for a lot of people in our districts.”
Owners who live in their property are eligible, and officials put that number at just under 350-thousand.
Clarke said district council members plan outreach efforts like mailings and meetings to increase awareness of the program and to explain the application.
Also of concern to council members is that the application was originally mailed out only in English.
The program would exempt up to $30,000 of property value from the tax, though Council and the mayor have yet to settle on a precise exemption.