BROOKSVILLE — When eight-year Spring Hill resident Jackie Mason's neighbor encouraged her last spring to look into getting a senior tax exemption, Mason figured she wouldn't qualify.
After becoming disabled in New Jersey several years ago, she collects Social Security and a pension. There was no way, she thought, that she would meet the income eligibility requirements.
But she visited the Hernando County's Property Appraiser's Office, just to be sure. The good news, she did qualify. The bad? She had just missed the March 1 deadline to apply.
She was not going to let that happen this year, so she filed her application in plenty of time. Mason said she, like many other senior citizens, can use the extra money and she hopes other seniors make the effort to get the exemption.
For the average homeowner, the exemption saves about $300 in property tax. It is applied only to the county portion of the tax bill and not that of other authorities, such as the school district and the city of Brooksville.
County commissioners voted in 2007 to allow an additional $50,000 property tax exemption, on top of the state homestead exemption, for eligible applicants starting with the 2008 tax bills.
In 2008, the county received 4,644 applicants for the exemption. In 2009, the applicants numbered 5,198. So far this year, another 900 low-income senior citizens have applied, according to Property Appraiser Alvin Mazourek.
Those who receive the exemption must reapply each year to continue receiving it, as the income eligibility requirements may change.
Although the county has demographic numbers indicating how many senior citizen property owners there are in Hernando County, the appraiser's office does not have income numbers so it is unclear how many eligible property owners have not filed for the exemption, Mazourek said.
Despite advertisements, public service announcements on the government broadcasting channel, literature included with homestead exemption notices and taxing TRIM notices, he said there are still people not getting the message.
When Paulette Stearns, director of the property appraiser's public services and exemptions section, spoke at a veterans services fair several weeks ago, she met some who had never heard of the exemption.
She said the Property Appraiser's Office wants people to use the exemption and to save some money. Stearns is considering putting fliers on the doors of residents when appraisers come by to look at work that has been done or when they do their three-year assessment.
She also said the staff is interested in speaking to community groups about the available exemptions and can even take applications at those meetings.
For more information or to apply for the exemption, call the appraiser's office at (352) 754-4190 or visit the county government building at 20 N Main St., Room 463, Brooksville, or the west side office at 7525 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.
Information is also available at hernandocounty.us/pa/.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.