Should Residents of 55+ Communities Pay Less Property Tax?

by Danny Goodman on March 5, 2012

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Property taxes support a wide variety of local services such as schools, libraries, fire services and more.

Retirees living on a fixed income are sure to be interested in living in an area that has retirement-friendly tax laws. In addition to choosing an area that doesn’t tax pensions or Social Security benefits, older adults can relocate to areas which offer property tax breaks to residents who are over a certain age. Yet expecting to pay less property tax has led to some controversy with active adults speaking out on both sides of the issue.

The way property taxes are collected and spent vary by state, county and municipality. Tax increases are typically the result of voting for special community projects, such as new schools and school budgets, libraries, police departments and roadways. Property taxes are based on the assessed value of the home and land, though many areas offer tax relief for senior residents with a lower income either through property tax exemptions or freezes.

There are many reasons for allowing lower property taxes for older adults. In some cases, tax relief has protected longtime homeowners from being taxed out of their homes after an area’s market value has gone up. In an attempt to avoid these situations, tax relief is designed to help seniors who meet low-income criteria keep their homes.

Yet there are also cases where residents who can afford to pay still feel that they should have lower (or no) payments. One of the most commonly cited reasons revolve around property taxes being used to fund local public school systems. Some 55+ community residents in Arizona felt so strongly about the matter that they voted their communities out of the local school districts and do not pay school taxes at all. But not every older adult feels that this is the best solution.

On the side of reducing school tax for older adults, many empty nesters feel that they should not be paying taxes toward a local school system which their (now adult) children are no longer using. Retirees who relocate to a new area may be even less inclined to pay taxes which support local schools, as they have never raised children in the area.

However, active adults on the other side of the issue tend to view public education as a responsibility of every citizen in a community, regardless of their own family status. They may argue that good schools bring in younger families, who stimulate the local economy and, in turn, support senior citizens through their own income taxes (used for Medicare and Social Security).

Property taxes may also be used for youth programs in addition to public schools as well, such as recreation centers, sports leagues and counseling for troubled or at-risk kids and teens. As with school funding, some older adults think these programs should be funded by families with children, while others see them as a benefit to the whole community which could lead to lower crime rates and better community spirit.

As with any issue, there are many points to be considered and the best answer is likely striking a balance somewhere in the middle. Yet, that middle ground can be difficult to find. When it comes to paying property taxes, what do you think?

Have you paid enough over the years that you now deserve a break? Or do you think everyone should contribute for the good of the community? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert M March 5, 2012 at 11:51 am

Interesting article. Does anyone know if there is an up to date listing of 55+ communities that do NOT pay School taxes (specifically)?

Thank you.

Rob M

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Bill Ness March 5, 2012 at 11:56 am

Hi Rob, to my understanding the only community that I can say with any certainty is Sun City in Arizona. There might be a few others but none that I know of. However, don’t expect to find this on any newer communities. If it exists it would most likely only be on older communities.

- Bill Ness
55Places.com

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Robert Manson March 7, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Thanks for the reply Bill. Paying school taxes is not a “must have” on my list but good to know prior to delving into a region for research. I know Del Webb Ponte Vedra (St. Augustine, FL) does pay school taxes. I believe most 55+ communities do pay school taxes. Thanks again Bill.

- Rob Manson

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Marianna March 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Well, Bill, you just pulled out the BIG GUNS in convincing me to move to Sun City because I do not believe in seniors paying ANY school taxes. Will this tax status for SC residents continue forever? I sure hope so. And by “seniors”, I mean anybody that is retired. I retired at 50. I paid school taxes for 30 years and made my contribution to society. Let the young people coming up pay their share — or stop having so many kids. If you can’t afford them, don’t have them.

I never had children, plus ALL my education was paid for by my parents and our church – we never used public money. I feel the people who elect to have children should be responsible for schools, not childless people, and certainly not seniors — including those seniors who once raised families and paid their share of school taxes.

I, too, lived in Sun City Texas for two years, unfortunately, and paid outrageous school taxes. I wrote about it in the local paper before a school bond election. I was called names, including “moron”, by the “classy” people there. I did not find any advantage to living in that town, unlike another poster on this blog. So I left and was never sorry. When I hear people say things like “we reap the benefits of their education”, I cringe. No, THEY reap the benefits. We are paying big money to these people for whatever services we need them for, i.e. dentists and lawyers.. I, for one, cannot afford to support other people’s kids, and I have a lot of support. You had the kids, YOU pay for them.

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Keith May 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I agree that retirees should not be taxed out of their homes and I would support a tax freeze based on length of ownership. But, I grow tired of cries for exceptions (based on age, race, working status, economic status, etc.) because such calls are frequently rooted in myopic viewpoints forged by stakeholders with financial interests. For example, should parents who homeschool or privately school their children pay school taxes? Why, because it’s their choice not to utilize public education? How is that any different from someone who chooses to retire or not have children? I suspect most have adopted a viewpoint which they believe best serves them financially. Are you going to argue that citizens without library cards receive a stipend or tax credit?

Lily March 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I am 65 and for decades have opposed school taxes on senior citizens. I feel that a property tax is likely fair since it usually helps pay for some community services like fire and police departments, however it is my opinion that retirees should be given a hefty discount or a freeze on those taxes. Let’s face it, thousands and thousands of seniors cannot continue to live in their homes because, if they live long enough, their pensions no longer provide cover living expenses. It’s a crime for elderly to have to give up their independence.

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Robert Manson March 7, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I agree Lily. It would be nice if not fiscally prudent to see school systems/counties/states create a hefty discount on school taxes for retirees & those residing in 55+ comunities. School taxes on my townhome account for 5/7ths of my overall taxes.

These ever increasing taxes create a negative demographic shift for retirees whereby forcing same to relocate and leave their homes. This movement decreases overall tax revenues to the taxing entity(s) and creates instability with respect to regional planning.

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Marianna March 9, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Lily, I agree fully with you. I don’t mind paying taxes for, like you mentioned, fire and police, in addition to roads, which we all use. Seniors who advocate for the payment of school taxes by members of their own age group are very selfish, as most seniors are not wealthy. But, wealthy or not, seniors have already contributed to society. Let them now live a peaceful retirement, free of school tax burden.

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Susan March 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm

In addition to school taxes, be careful if you are looking at a community in South Carolina. Regardless of your age, if you own another home anywhere in the US including South Carolina, your one SC residence is taxed at 6% verses 4%. On a $250,000 home this would be a difference of $800-$900 dollars per year at 4% verses $3000 plus at 6%. Your pension and IRA distributions are also taxed by the state. Your cars, boats, RVs etc are also taxed by the state as if clothing and certain food items.

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Luke March 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

It’s tough to make a serious argument that just because you and your neighbors don’t use a certain public service, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. If that was the case, then everyone under 30 shouldn’t be paying social security tax, nobody under 55 would be paying for Medicare, and almost nobody would be paying for welfare programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.

Active Adults should bite their tongues and graciously pay for local schools. No other generation in history has been a larger beneficiary of public programs than yourselves. Pay it forward.

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phylb March 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I agree with Luke. I also feel that we are always getting our cuts from Education. When my children were going to school there we many 55+ adults contributing to education and it is my responsiblity to do so for other young families.

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Maureen March 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm

After a certain age, say over 75, seniors should be exempt from paying school taxes. With the constant rising costs of medical care and living expenses, our seniors need a some sort of a break. If they cannot be completely exempt, then a greatly reduced school tax is certainly in order. As for myself, I did not personally attend public schools (my parents made major sacrifices to send my brother and I to parochial school) so, therefore, I am probably slightly prejudiced against the public school system in general.

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joan March 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

What will happen to our country when other so called citizens say they don’t want to pay school taxes. Good public education helped make it possible for many of the 55+ citizens to own a home in the swell communities.

Keep America strong by educating our children.

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mercedes March 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

I live in Sun City Texas, have never had children, and I gladly support my local school system with my taxes. Countless hundreds of taxpayers supported my excellent public school system in Long Island, where I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and it’s time to pay it forward.

In our Texas municipality, as in many others around the country, senior homeowners do enjoy a slight reduction in their school taxes. And I am happy to report that Sun City Texas homeowners have led the effort every year since 1998 to pass the school budgets, the public library budget and all major public works bond projects in oursmall city.

Why? Because we over 55+ homeowners in Sun City Texas also reap the rewards of a well-educated community: better schools, younger families, better infrastructure and economic investment, and more jobs, not to mention higher property values.

Not supporting the schools with our taxes only hurts us in the long run.

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John March 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Do not be so sure, that more school taxes did you pay the higher quality of education students in public school will received. Always for those who would like to support public school system all kinds of donations are available. Please recognize that amount of money spend by pupil for “public education” collected as school taxes has nothing to do with the quality of education in public schools. Why, because the efficiency is the mean issue and in public schools is very low. One of the important question is – what is the major impact or justification for a Superintendent or other school administrators to receive annually k$ 350 – 450 if teachers’ salaries started at k$ 20. Thus, we have the highest expense ratio but we are very low on the world classification list in quality of education. Unfortunately, most good quality education comes from both all kind of private and home schools, which all did not receive any money from the school taxation

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Trudi March 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I can see both sides of the issue. With taxes consistantly increasing, I would like to know why schools on an ongoing bases have to have fund raisers and or why teachers have to dig into their own pockets year after year to buy the school supplies needed for their classrooms? The upper elite of the school board should take a decent pay cut and reduce their size of their pensions. They need to learn how to budget the school system and stop being so wasteful.

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Candis Bloomrose May 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Paying school taxes is a complicated issued. There are many misconceptions about teachers, what they do and how school systems handle their $. I expect to pay for schools – young people are our future and we need to keep eduction strong. Education will keep our country strong and hopefully help all Americans, including our seniors!

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Gina September 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I’m 51 years old and have never had any children. I feel that I have paid way more than my fair share toward the education of other peoples children. I don’t mind paying some but I certainly mind paying the more than 100,000 that I have paid and still pay. Due to the depression since 2008 I’ve been out of work for 5 years and have spent most of my retirement savings. Now I cannot afford to continue paying 3,000 dollars a year in school taxes and will be forced to sell my house. But no breaks for me from the government or school system – it’s pay or go live in a cardboard box – we don’t really care what happens to you. school tax is pure socialism dependent on “other people’s money”. All of the people I know who don’t have children feel this way but most are afraid so say it out load for fear of the rath of people with children who feel they have a right to your financial support.

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sandy January 6, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I’m 54, and for the past 13-hears I have been paying 3000 in property taxes, about 1,300 goes to the schools. I like Gina never had children, and I’m tried of paying. Florida implemented the lottery for the schools, and it seems like the lottery money is being spent elsewhere. I’m tried of hearing, but it for our children. Our money is being spent in administrative tasking that have nothing to do with the teachers or schools.

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bill Lynch November 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm

There is one point here that seems to be missing….voluntary versus compulsory tax participation. I’m 68 and live in an over 55 community. We pay the same tax rates as everyone else in Town. The schools in this community gobble up 61% of the Town’s budget. So far so good? Well here is the rub, there is a Town ordinance that precludes anyone living in an over 55 community from placing a child in the school system….”precludes” meaning I cannot by law put any child into the system. Now that isn’t the same as my choosing not to get a library card. I pay for a service that I am forbidden to use. How is that fair? If anyone in our community suffered a family tragedy and needed to take in a grand child they would have to move because they cannot have a child attend school in this Town. To me that isn’t simply wrong or even illogical, it’s unconstitutional to mandate that I pay for a service I am not allowed to use..

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Rich October 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Off course it is but you are dealing with a “One size fits all” money grabbing government environment. Start organizing everyone, maybe a class action suit against the Country would help. They would have a lot to pay back of illegally collected taxes, wouldn’t they?

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Edward November 25, 2013 at 11:25 am

The topic is paying school taxes in a 55 and over community, where no one under 18 is allowed. The 55 plus communities should be free of the education burden. But you will still see taxes in other forms to make up to the education budget. The education system is very strong and also still over managed like once the manufacturing system. The so called middle management needs to take a hard look in the waste of political positions over paid in our society.

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Clif May 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Many people are of the opinion that senior citizens should pay school taxes and/or social security and medicare taxes. A bit of a reminder: we, senior citizens have paid school taxes, social security and medicare taxes all our working lives, years which can range between 30 to 40 years. Some of us, like me, have never had children. Even those who had kids paid into it for well past their kids’ school age. We paid it and did not fret. When we got to be 65 we retired and are asking for an exemption from that tax so that we can live a comfortable as possible life with the funds we have managed to save. Also, the fixed income we now get from social security is money that had been promised to be returned to us with some interest when it had been taken out of our paychecks before we got it. Bear in mind also, medicare tax is also taken out of our social security retirement income to the tune of $105.00 every month. In these times we live in, government had demanded and the supreme court has upheld the government’s case that it can force us to buy a service or product. I am amaze that many people are in agreement with that and continue to ask, no, tell government to continue to treat us like pre-teenage kids and tell us what we can and cannot do. At last we have lived to be 65 and over and I think it is time to tell the government: “we are adults and do not need to be treated like kids”. Stay out of our lives, let us live in the peace and comfort we have worked for all our lives, many of us worked 12, 14 hour days to prepare for the time we become ‘Senior Citizens’. To the people who think they need to continue to pay those taxes, I say, write a check and send it to the government for public school education funds. We send checks and/clothes to charities, no one forces us to do that. The government collect taxes for certain purposes and they continue to spend those funds on other things. What you are saying is, ‘we are suppose to continue to pay those taxes after we have paid it for the better part of our lives and will continue to pay some form of taxes until we die’? I know, some of you will say we are ’selfish’ for not paying taxes for things other people want and maybe need. What do you call those people who wait for those things and demand that we continue to pay those taxes after we paid it all our working lives and have now retired? Why don’t we all demand from the government that they spend the taxes they collect for specific purposes on those specific things and not on other things. Stop spending the Social security and medicare taxes they collected from us and had promised to give back to us when we retire and not on something else. They have now labeled our money we are supposed to get back as ‘entitlements’ and are declaring that they will have to reduce the amount we are supposed be get back because after they used it for other purposes there isn’t enough to pay us back. They have grossly misjudged their spending and after seeing the money set aside for social security growing, they thought we would not live long enough to get it so they used it for other purposes. I submit, when social security was introduced, they believed we would not live long enough to collect it and they would have a big surplus. I am not surprise they would think that way, these are the same people who told us to duck and cover in case of a nuclear bombing. Go figure.

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Richard Gallina October 6, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Richard

I can respect all comments regarding Seniors opinions on the topic of support of our Public Schools. I am a Senior and I live in a residential neighborhood, thus I pay real estate taxes in support of Public Schools. I received good schooling in both private and public schools right up through College. I choose to support Education and make every effort to see my Investments grow annually so I can comfortably pay my Taxes. I’m frugal with expenses and willingly will sacrifice to live this way. To those who resent supporting Public Education because they never had children, I ask “what the hell did you do with all that money”? Surveys suggest it would take $200k- $300K to raise a child, where did your money go? To others, consider that over half the people who populate this planet don’t have the opportunity to a public education. My Education has provided me with a stable retirement and diversified knowledge base that continues to serve me in retirement. For that I’m willing to support Public Education now and in the future.

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Rich October 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

It’s real simple. If you live or own a property in a 55+ community where school age children are forbidden to live, there should be no charges for schools or school bonds allowed on your property tax bill. Otherwise children should be allowed to live in these communities. You can’t have it both ways.

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