April 1, 2022
OSWEGO COUNTY – The Oswego County Legislature will hold five public hearings before its next meeting. The hearings will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in Legislature Chambers on the fourth floor of the Oswego County Legislative Office Building, 46 E. Bridge St., Oswego.
Two of the hearings relate to two proposed local laws for partial real property tax exemptions, one for low-income homeowners aged 65 years and over, and one for low-income households for qualified people with disabilities. Each proposal will raise income limits and adjust the sliding income scale for partial exemptions. The sliding income scale will begin at $29,000 or less for a 50% exemption and go to the maximum $37,400 for a 5% exemption.
“Increasing the income ceiling and updating the sliding income scale will allow households with an income of up to $37,400 to be eligible for a partial exemption,” explained Oswego County Legislature Chairman James Weatherup, District 9. “This means that all current senior households receiving the exemption now, would receive a greater benefit with the passage of this law. In addition, another 2,479 low-income senior households could potentially receive a partial benefit from it.”
Oswego County first granted a partial real property tax exemption to low-income senior households in 1968. Over the years, it was amended to increase income thresholds and add a sliding income scale. The last time it was amended was in 1999 and now, just 1,016 low-income senior households currently receive this benefit.
A similar local law is proposed for low-income households for qualified people with disabilities as well. Adoption of this proposed law would increase the minimum income and update the sliding income scale consistent with the low-income senior household exemptions.
Oswego County first granted partial exemptions low-income households for people with disabilities in 2001, using the same income scale for low-income senior households. Only 138 qualified households currently receive this exemption.
“Like the senior exemptions, all current households for qualified people with disabilities would receive a greater benefit with the adoption of this law, and more qualifying households would become eligible on the income sliding scale,” added Weatherup.
Both proposed local laws include other options, such as allowing for unreimbursed medical expenses to be excluded as income for the purpose of applying for the exemption.
“In the past, all sources of income were considered,” said Legislator David M. Holst, District 4, chairman of the Oswego County Legislature’s Government, Courts and Consumer Affairs Committee. “As a result, pensions and social security payments often ‘priced out’ many senior households and made them ineligible.”
Additional options proposed for the low-income senior exemption law will also allow veterans’ disability payments under Title 38 of the U.S. Code to be excluded as income; and permit applicants to apply for the exemption if they will turn 65 by December 31, rather than March 1 as was the previous cut-off date.
If these proposals are adopted, changes would start to take effect next year. Qualified households need to apply by March 1, 2023 to see the change on their assessment rolls beginning July 1. When county tax bills come out the following January, they will then reflect the exemption.
Households with qualifying seniors and people with disabilities already receiving the exemption still need to re-apply annually as they usually do, but the new exemption values will apply to them automatically upon renewal in 2023.
“The real estate market has been incredibly hot these last few years,” said Corey Metz, director of Oswego County Real Property Tax Services. “Since assessments are based on the market values of real property, many qualified homeowners are seeing their home values and assessments increase based on market conditions that are outside of their control. All real property is taxable unless exempt, so making this exemption accessible to more seniors can help off-set their rising assessment values.”
Oswego County Mass Transportation
There will also be a public hearing on Thursday, April 14 related to a proposed local law about mass transportation in Oswego County.
The largely rural nature of Oswego County can be an obstacle for people to get to work, school or the grocery store without a reliable mode of transportation. Passing this law will allow the County to contract with transit providers to make mass transportation facilities and services available to residents and establish a mass transportation system.
New York State Community Development Block Grant Program
Another a public hearing planned for Thursday, April 14 is associated the CDBG CV-Farmworker Safety Housing Grant Program and the County’s CDBG Program Income Housing Action Plan.
State and federal officials join Oswego County in recognizing the need for improvements on seasonal labor housing and have identified available CDBG grant funding through the CARES Act of 2020. With interest from several local farm owners, Oswego County will apply for the grant through the New York State Office of Homes and Community Renewal.
Oswego County Agricultural District
One more public hearing scheduled for April 14 relates to the Oswego County Agricultural District. Every year, the Legislature opens a “window of opportunity” for qualified landowners to apply to be included in this certified district. Applications are accepted from Jan. 1 to 31 and reviewed by the Oswego County Farmland Protection Board, which makes recommendations to the Legislature.
The public is invited to attend these hearings scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 14 in Legislature Chambers on the fourth floor of the Legislative Office Building, 46 E. Bridge St., Oswego. For more information, go to www.oswegocounty.com/clerkofthelegislature.