Fisher speaks to Kent residents about tax

Elise Franco

Kent Social Services was filled to capacity Friday afternoon as Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher spoke about Gov. Ted Strickland’s budget plan to cut property taxes for seniors.

Fisher said the plan is to expand and extend the already existing homestead tax exemption so that people with disabilities and seniors 65 years and older will receive a 25 percent tax cut.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to you,” he said. “We want to pay back our debt through this new budget.”

Fisher said the homestead exemption has lost luster since its peak in 1981.

“In ’81 it provided relief for 75 percent of seniors,” he said. “In 2004, only 30 percent. We intend to help 100 percent of those eligible.”

One important reason Fisher said this tax break is being proposed is because schools are depending too much on homeowners of Portage County for funding.

Because these homeowners will be saving money, his hope is that they will in turn show support for the school systems by voting yes to pass more levies.

“Making this proposal real is what’s important,” Fisher said. “We’re trying to get the message out around the state – otherwise, we’re just like a tree falling in the forest that no one hears.”

Barbara Riley, director of the Ohio department of aging, said the new budget is all about seniors having choices.

“It’s essential that they are able to choose which services they need,” she said.

The new plan will also make it possible for seniors to stay in their own homes and receive assisted living services through the PASSPORT Program.

“Our seniors have worked a long time, worked hard,” Riley said. “They deserve to stay at home and get the services they need there.”

Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito, Kent Mayor John Fender and several other city officials were in attendance as well.

Esposito said, “I commend you. This needs to be changed, so please, anything I can do, I will do to help.”

Riley said the tax cut will not affect those who rent, but those residents will be positively impacted through the PASSPORT Program.

“It offers a good array of services,” she said. “Even if they don’t need them right now, they may need them eventually.”

If approved, the revision will go into effect on July 1.

Contact public affairs reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].