Saturday, January 21, 2017

Letter to the Editor



Marie Antoinette - Queen of France who lost her head through her indifference to the common man

Dear Sir,


The following is my response to the proposal in the Delaware state budget to eliminate the senior citizen discount in the annual real estate/school tax bill:

Subject: Who thought this was a good idea?
(Imagined ) Conversation in governor’s office re budget shortfall:

 Budget Director:

 “Governor, we’re short funds in our budget. Any suggestions how we make up the shortfall?

 Governor Markel: 

 “Let’s tax those seniors who have been getting a free ride. Take away that $500 senior citizen tax credit on their annual real estate/school tax bill.” 

 Budget Director:

 “But what about those senior citizens who live on a fixed retirement income? Those senior citizens who are already faced with ever increasing costs in food, heat, and insurance?”

 Governor Markel:

 “Let them eat cake”

My partner, now husband and I moved to Delaware from our beautiful, paid off home in Pennsylvania, eleven years ago to escape the ever increasing real estate/school taxes in Pennsylvania.

We didn’t want to move. Hardly a day goes by that my partner/husband laments how much he misses our home in Pennsylvania, a home we planned to live out our days.  But when our taxes reached the $8,000 a year threshold, and were increasing each year 10 to 15%, I had no other choice than to sell our dream home and move to Delaware, the Land of Low Taxes.

I had always envied my longtime school friend Larry who lived in Claymont , Delaware and his low three figure annual tax payment.  My friend Bob who lived outside Georgetown, and his low three figure annual tax payment.  Even my late millionaire friend Ed, who lived on the three hundred block of Laurel Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, his taxes were also under a $1,000 a year. 

 “Time to move” I told myself. So we uprooted everything and put our house up for sale and had a new house built in Milton. This was in the year 2006, right as the housing market started to collapse.  We almost lost everything because we owed money on our new house and couldn’t sell our old house.  We eventually did sell our old house and ended up with a $100,000 mortgage on our new house, which we hadn’t planned on.  This was bad but at least we now had a low tax bill that wasn’t going to increase 8 to 10% a year or more.

However, since we have lived here we have seen our tax bill slowly increase from $1,200 a year to now $1,500 a year. This was the net bill, less the $500 tax credit given senior citizens who had lived in their home at least a year.  A welcome break from our Pennsylvania tax bill, which was rapidly approaching $10,000 a year. 

Our main source of income is our Social Security payments.  I also receive three small pension payments from my career years bouncing between banking jobs, trying to survive “right sizing". 

 Now, in order to supplement our income and keep up with the ever increasing household bills like heat, electric, insurance and food; I work part-time at a local hotel. 

 My partner spouse is 88 years old. I am 75 years old.  There will come a time when our household will have to get by on only one Social Security payment.  And, if I’m fortunate enough to have a long life, there will probably come a time when I’m not  checking in hotel guests and earning those extra few dollars that enable me to take “indulge” myself and take a holiday a few times a year and keep up with those ever increasing household bills and insurance payments. 

Over the past few years I have already started to cut back on expenses. 

Do I need that fancy phone plan?  Perhaps not so I cut back. 

Do I really need all those magazines subscriptions? 
Besides, those magazines are all filled with ads anyway. 

Cancel those subscriptions. 

Do I really need to eat out at all those fine Rehoboth/Lewes restaurants?

We cut out those restaurant forays last year.  

Each month I see all our bills increase while our Social Security payments and my pension payments stay the same. 

I’ll never see another increase in my pay at the hotel in my lifetime.  Service jobs are notoriously underpaid. One doesn’t get rich off a hotel front desk job, no matter how many Trip Advisor kudos one receives.

Then I read in the Cape Gazette that Governor Markel, submitting his final budget, suggests eliminating the $500 senior citizen tax credit on their real estate/school tax. 

Really?

One of the pleasant surprises for me, when we moved to Delaware, was how respectful Delaware was to its senior citizens by giving them a tax break like this.  Unlike Pennsylvania who is cold and raises those taxes each year, regardless of age or income bracket. Delaware recognized the value of encouraging senior citizens to relocate to Delaware and thus contribute to the local economy. 

In my ten years working at the hotel I have lost count how many couples have told me they were visiting Delaware to check out the housing situation because they could no longer afford the taxes in their home state.  Almost all of my neighbors in the development where I live now have retired here from another state to get away from the high taxes from their home state.

Did they move here because of the fabulous Delaware beaches? 

 Did they move here to be closer to the outlet stores?

 Did they move here for the gourmet restaurant experience?

 Did they move here because of the fishing opportunity?

 Not a one.

When I asked them, they ALL told me they were moving because they couldn’t afford to pay the school/real estate taxes in their home state any more.

I find it very shortsighted to take away the $500 senior citizen discount on the school/real estate tax bill.

For the amount of revenue anticipated of the 25 million dollars.  While 25 million is no amount of small change, it is only a drop in the bucket of the 350 million short fall in the proposed 4.13 billion dollar Delaware state budget.

To me it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to ask those thousands of senior citizens living in Delaware struggling to get by on a fixed income to pay an extra $500 a year in taxes. 

 Just who thought this was a good idea?

6 comments:

  1. Ron,

    This not the worse of it either. I understand that it is also proposed to create a state wide property tax on top of the county property taxes we now pay. My current property taxes are now over $1,300 a year. Also, my revenue has again shrunk because of the miniscule COLA given on the Social Security. Our SS barely increased, but our insurance did, enough that my net SS payment is less than last year. And given the health circumstance here it is impossible to suppliment my income with any kind of emplyment. Thanks for your parting gifts Markell. What positive did you ever do for Delaware?

    Larry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Larry,
      I wasn't aware of the proposal of a state wide property tax. I didn't realize Markel was so out of touch with the average senior citizens like us who are struggling to meet ever increasing costs of just surviving on a fixed income and shrinking Social Security payments. You better pray that Paul Ryan and his cohorts don't privatize Social Security and Medicare. Then you'll really see the costs rise. The first item of business of the new Congress shouldn't be taking away the social safety net but putting themselves on the same plan we're on. Then they'll realize what they're doing and how much damage they will cause.
      Ron

      Delete
  2. i use to live in PA and know how tax greedy that state is. i had my taxes prepared by a CPA and no matter how much he figured I should get in state tax refund PA would always cut it in half. It is the greediest state in the US and that greed is the reason i decided not to return after i got out of the military. Taxes can eat you up and now that the evil is in washington those of us who make up the lower 50 % are gonna suffer even more...no relief

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oliver,
      Pennsylvania is greedy with the taxes. When I lived there I was paying the school/real estate tax, a county personal property tax, a township tax, a state income tax, a per capita tax and the state sales tax. In Delaware I pay one tax, the school/real estate tax. Period. If I stayed in Pennsylvania after I retired, eventually the ever increasing taxes (which rose every year) would eat up my fixed income of pension payment and Social Security. I had to leave to survive on my fixed income.
      Ron

      Delete
  3. It seems to me that the seniors and vets are always the very first ones to get the shaft - while we inevitably cater to the children and foreign immigrants. One of the (many) reasons I went broke in Texas was having to pay the ever-increasing property taxes while it took over FOUR years to sell my house.
    Great letter to the editor. I fully sympathize with your plight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jon,
      You're absolutely right, the seniors and vets are always the first ones to get the shaft. When I applied for Social Security I had expected to see other old folk like me at the Social Security office. However, I only saw one other old man. I was surprised that me and the other Old Guy were outnumbered by the other people there of working age. There were three Hispanic women in their twenties. A couple Hispanic men (what were THEY doing there?) Also a young white woman hold a baby of mixed race. I think that's where the majority of Social Security benefits go, for disability and SSI for young mothers without fathers for their children. Something is drastically wrong with out system.
      Ron

      Delete