Property tax is something every home owner and business owner must face each year. However, in 2005, Indiana recalculated the way property tax was assessed and this resulted in a 250% increase on some long-time home owner’s tax. Many of which, were seniors who had lived in the same home for decades.
Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr of Hammond was a brand-new mayor when this occurred, and many looked to him to solve it.
“It was one of the first crises I had to deal with as mayor,” he said. “People were literally being taxed out of their homes. We saw seniors losing their homes that they had been in for decades. It seemed particularly cruel to me for seniors living in a home their whole lives to lose their homes due to this reassessment.”
McDermott and the Hammond Council worked together to come up with a few ideas. One of them was to piggy back off the states Senior Disabled Exemption. Under this tax exemption, you must be 65 years or older, or legally disabled and your income must be below a certain threshold to qualify for the credit.
“Once they’re verified, it gives them a tax break on their home and up to $500 per year to go towards their property taxes,” McDermott explained. “We like to call it the Senior CollegeBound Program.”
However, McDermott and the Council realized that this wasn’t enough on its own. They also instituted tax caps at 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5% on the property.
“We were one of the first cities in Indiana to institute tax caps. And now it’s in the state constitution,” said McDermott.
It’s no wonder that each year McDermott receives around 20-30 handwritten letters from seniors thanking him for this tax incentive that has allowed them the financial relief to stay in their homes.
“I get the nicest letters from seniors every year,” smiled McDermott. “I put them all together and put in a collage on Facebook.”
For the residents of Hammond, Mayor McDermott is a blessing. And the letters are proving that each year as they arrive in his office.