To the editor:
Recently the Douglas County Commission voted to support efforts to eliminate the tax exemption for residents of independent living units at Presbyterian Manor.
For over 30 years, Lawrence Presbyterian Manor has been serving the needs of the elderly and helping relieve the burden on government and taxpayers. Now this organization and their residents are under attack by proponents of a bill that would make residents of not-for-profit housing for the elderly pay property tax -- on residences they don't even own.
Contrary to what you have heard, older people living in retirement communities come from various socioeconomic backgrounds. The typical resident of our housing is a woman in her 80s who has experienced significant life changes, such as widowhood and increased frailty.
Residents of not-for-profit housing for the elderly do not enjoy the rights of a property owner. These older people place their trust in the retirement community to help them manage the care and services they will need to live out their life in fullness. If the person exhausts their resources, they are not asked to leave.
If the issue is truly one of older homeowners being overburdened with taxes, then let's look at revising the state program for property tax relief called the Homestead Property Tax Refund Program. Last year alone this program refunded over $13 million.
Or better yet, why not scrutinize the widespread practice of providing tax abatements in Kansas such as $187 million to new business and another $719 million in IRB's? Let's not target a small group of older people who have planned ahead and by their actions are alleviating the burden on government and taxpayers.
John R. Grace, president,
Kansas Association of Homes & Service for the Aging