Resolution could give counties power to hike homestead exemption
A joint resolution introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates last week could have voters deciding whether to let counties adjust the Homestead Exemption for their own local taxpayers.
House Joint Resolution 113, know as the “Homestead Exemption Increase Amendment,” would have state voters decide in November whether to change the state Constitution, and let counties control how they apply the tax exemption.
Right now, state residents over 65 or those who are permanently disabled don’t have to pay taxes on the first $20,000 of assessed value on their primary residence.
Under the proposed amendment, counties could petition the state to raise that dollar amount up to 50% of the “average value of residential property in that county.”
The Legislature could alter or reject a county’s proposal to raise the Homestead Exemption. If state officials approved it, the county proposal would have to be approved by a majority of local voters before it went into effect.
A county’s proposed change to the exemption would have to include an explanation of how they would cover the shortfall in tax revenue that would happen with a higher Homestead exemption, said the resolution.
Counties could also use a different formula to arrive at the exemption level, under the proposed amendment.
“The increase in homestead exemption may be uniform in its application or may be applied based upon need and extended only to qualifying homeowners whose total household income is at or below certain income levels,” the resolution proposes.
House members are expected to vote on the resolution this week. In order to pass in the House of Delegates, at least a two-thirds majority is needed for the Constitutional amendment.
The measure also must pass in the State Senate before it could come before voters in November. A simple majority of votes in that election would be needed to put the amendment into effect.
Delegate Daryl Cowles said he thinks the resolution is likely to be successful in both the House and the Senate.
“This is a good thing. It is somewhat more complicated than necessary, but not too cumbersome to be implemented. I am hoping for a chance to have the people vote,” Cowles said from Charleston.