Senior citizens spoke out against Councilman Bill Bryan’s proposal to eliminate the senior homestead exemption.
Bryan initially brought the matter up for discussion during the council’s Jan. 5 meeting, noting he didn’t think it was fair that the city’s senior citizen population received property tax breaks.
The council voted 1-5 to deny Bryan’s motion, with Bryan the only council member supporting his motion.
During the meeting, he said that in 2011, 1,231 homes in the city paid either no property taxes or a “disproportionately small amount” of taxes.
“This is not an attack on senior citizens,” he said, adding he was just “doing the job I was elected to do.”
Dwight Kees, who said most seniors live on fixed income, said most seniors do not have disposable income because many often contribute to their children’s households to make ends meet.
“Don’t drive your seniors out” by eliminating the exemption, he directed the council.
Steve Bloom said he moved to Canton because of the “tax advantage” of having a senior homestead exemption.
“You can’t take tax benefits form people who’ve made lifelong decisions to come into an area based upon current rules and regulations and taxation,” he said, receiving applause.
Arnie Kornblum, who has lived in Canton for four years, said he was also opposed.
Many seniors, he said, were attracted to Canton because of the tax benefit. And if the benefit were to be eliminated, baby boomers contemplating moving to the area “could and most likely reconsider this move.”
Carole Day said she didn’t move to Canton because of the senior homestead exemption, but added it was an “unexpected plus.”
Wanting to be near her children, she noted she and other seniors aren’t “asking for a handout” and many seniors in the city aren’t well off.
“I don’t think you can listen to Mr. Bryan over his irate tirades,” she added.
Councilman Hooky Huffman added he thought Bryan “has definitely pointed out some leaks” in his analysis, but noted he didn’t think a total elimination of the exemption would be wise.
During his annual state of the city, Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood said “this idea will go nowhere” and is a waste of the council’s time to discuss it.
“Seniors are an important part of our community and we must recognize the value of seniors to our city, not just social, but financial as well.”
The Canton City Council also:
* Approved a monthly $50 allowance for the mayor and council for cell phone use;
* Discussed a comprehensive fire protection plan;
* Directed City Manager Scott Wood to solicit bids to perform an external audit of the Water and Sewer Department;
* Tabled discussion on a proposed leak adjustment policy and a water billing ordinance;
* The council met in closed session to discuss litigation, but took no action upon returning.