Feature photo: A Lafayette homeowner who qualifies for the special assessment level. Photo by Harley Sagrera.
Amendment 6, which would allow more homeowners to qualify for a freeze on their property’s market value, is on the Louisiana ballot for the Nov. 3 election.
Currently in Louisiana, there are multiple tax breaks that homeowners may be able to qualify for to help with the cost of property taxes. Amendment 6 focuses on the special assessment level which freezes the property value of the primary residence for people who qualify.
What does the ballot say?
“Do you support an amendment to increase the maximum amount of income a person may receive and still qualify for the special assessment level for residential property receiving the homestead exemption?”
What does this mean?
Amendment 6 is asking to increase the amount of income a person could make and still qualify for the special assessment level on their houses. This amendment would raise the current income threshold from $77,030 to $100,000 by the year 2026 to help more people qualify for the special assessment.
A vote “yes” would increase the income threshold to $100,000 starting in the year 2026, according to the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR).
A vote “no” would keep the income threshold where it is set now, which is currently $77,030 for the year 2020, according to PAR.
What is the homestead exemption?
The homestead exemption allows a homeowner to have the first $75,000 of their house’s value exempt from the market value and from property taxes, according to Sean Hettich, a Lafayette real estate agent and co-owner of District South Real Estate Company. Every homeowner qualifies for this exemption on their primary residence, Hettich said.
Michelle Badeaux, a realtor at Latter & Blum and a rental property owner at Mika Properties, LLC, explained if someone owns a house that was valued at $100,000, the first $75,000 of this value would be exempt, making the market value of the house only $25,000. That homeowner would only have to pay property tax on $25,000 instead of $100,000.
What is the special assessment level?
The special assessment level, also known as the “home value freeze program,” allows certain homeowners to freeze the value of their property, according to Conrad Comeaux, the Lafayette Parish Assessor. If a person qualifies for the special assessment level, their property value would not increase even if the value was reassessed in the future.
In order to qualify for the special assessment level, a homeowner must already receive the homestead exemption and must be 65 years or older, “totally disabled,” or a disabled veteran, Comeaux said. Additionally, a person’s income must be below $77,030 for the year 2020. The income threshold was originally set at $50,000 in 2001 and has been adjusted every year based on inflation. A homeowner’s income is determined by their annual adjusted gross income, according to Comeaux.
What impact could this amendment have?
Comeaux said the purpose of the amendment is to raise the income threshold to $100,000 starting in 2026. Raising this threshold would allow for more people to qualify for the special assessment level, and Comeaux said he estimates around 1,000-2,000 additional homeowners may be able to qualify by the year 2026 if the amendment is passed.
Every time tax exemptions or reductions are put in place, the people who do not qualify for the exemptions have to make up for any taxes that are lost, according to Comeaux.
“If you have more and more people qualifying for this and their values don’t go up in the future, those people who don’t have this would have to pick up the tax burden,” said Comeaux.
Hettich said he has many clients who are veterans or are people age 65 or older, and they could benefit from Amendment 6. He said the people who would be able to qualify for the special assessment level if the amendment was passed may not save a large amount of money, but it could still help them.
“It is not putting thousands of dollars in their pocket, it is marginal. But I think for the people who really need [it], it will make a bigger difference for them,” Hettich said.
For more information about Amendment 6, or the other amendments on the Louisiana ballot for Nov. 3, check out the Louisiana Public Affairs Research’s amendment guide for 2020.