Mayor Walter E. Washington proposed a property tax program yesterday that his aides said would give District homeowners greater tax relief than tax structures used in suburban Washington jurisdictions.
The mayor's proposal would tax homeowners and renters under a "circuit-breaker" system that would limit property taxes to a set percentage of the homeowner's or renter's income.
The mayor's proposal includes a separate tax structure for persons over 65 years old that limits their property taxes to one-half that paid by persons under 65 who have all the same income.
"We believe this system transfers the District's property tax structure into a modern institution based on the ability to pay and sensitivity to the problems of the elderly," said Billy D. Cook, associate director of the city's department of finance and revenue. Cook introduced the mayor's plan at a city hal press conference. The mayor was ill with a virus.
"This program puts us in line with other suburban tax jurisdictions with respect to tax tax relief for the elderly." Cook said. "And it puts us (the District) ahead of other jurisdictions with respect to tax relief for the non-elderly."
The mayor's proposal is an alternative to a $6,000 homeowner exemption program proposed by councilman Marion Barry, who is chairman of the council's finance and revenue committee.
Both proposals are to come before the Council's finance and revenue committee next Wednesday. city property owners have seen their property tax bills increase sharply recently beczuse of new assessments of the value of theie properties.
Barry's plan would affect only residential owners, while the mayor's would include commercial property.
Under the mayor's proposal, property taxes imposed on elderly (over 65) households would be limited to 1.5 per cent of income for those in the $5,000 to #9,999 bracket, to 2 per cent from $10,000 to $14,999 to 2.5 per cent for $15,000 to $19,999 to 3 per cent from $20,000 to $24,999, and to 35 per cent for $25,000 and over.
Ceilings for the non-elderly would be exactly double these rates.
The mayor's plan would allow renters to claim payment of 15 per cent of their annual rent as taxation. The city has about 180,000 renters, Cook said.
The mayor, in a letter to Sterling Tucker, chairman of the City Council, estimated the cost of his tax relief program would be $11.7 million in fiscal year 1978 and 12.3 million in fiscal year 1979.
Barry's $6,000 exemption proposal would cost the city an estimated $11.1 million for fiscal year 1978 and $12 million for fiscal year 1979.
After the mayor's proposal was announced, Barry attacked it as ineffective. He said only 6 per cent of District homeowners used the circuit breaker scheme in 1975 and he did not anticipate greater participation in the future. Barry said his homeowners exemption of $6,000 would give tax relief automatically to all homeowners.
Cook contended that the mayor's proposal was better than Barry's because it extends tax relief to renters and offers the greatest aid to low-income property owners. The current D.C. tax rate is $1.83 per $100 of assessed value.