Tax Freeze For Seniors Approved

County Commissioners have listened to voters, unanimously approving a freeze on property taxes for senior citizens in Smith County.

It showed up as Proposition 13 on the ballots back in September and was overwhelmingly approved. At the time 82% of Smith County voters, voted to freeze property taxes for those who are disabled or aged 65 or older. It's a popular measure that will mean big savings for some, but those left out, may have to pick up the tab.

Smith County Judge Becky Dempsey said the freeze was easy to recommend.

"Since the voters overwhelmingly approved it, 82 % is rather a mandate in Smith County, we felt like it was the right thing to do and we passed it."

The decision means big savings for homeowners like Betty Gibbs. She and her husband have owned a home in Smith County since 1971. Freezing the amount they pay in property tax means they'll have more money for retirement.

"Naturally on a fixed income I need as low as taxes as I can get," she said "Older people have pretty well paid their dues all there taxes and everything over the years and it's time for the younger people to step in and take over."

Opponents of the proposition say it's that younger generation that could be hurt the worst. Smith County appraisers estimate the impact of the freeze will be $82,000 in 2005. That number will increase to nearly $2 million by 2020 for a total impact of more than $14 million dollars.

Despite the numbers, many, like under 65 Smith County resident Frank McDaniel, see the measure as a positive.

"The way I look at it is we're gonna be 65 one of these days as well and I think it will be good for everybody."

It's that sentiment that will soon have many Smith County residents seeing more of their money.   Anyone who is disabled or 65 or older and paying property taxes in Smith County qualifies for the freeze. The freeze does not take place until the 2005 tax bill, your current 2004 property taxes will set the rate.

Chris Gibson, reporting