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Car tax relief?

The Suffolk City Council may be considering a car tax break for seniors and disabled people after the request was made by a citizen.

Albert Gowallis made a request in January for the Council to enact personal property tax relief for seniors and disabled people. He and his wife are on a fixed income, he said. Their health insurance recently went up $11 per month, and they have not received an increase in Social Security payments, Gowallis said.

“When this bill comes in, it is like sixty-some dollars,” Gowallis said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but to me, it’s like a thousand dollars.”

The city currently grants some relief on real estate taxes, but has no similar program for personal property taxes, even though the state allows it.

State code provides that any car that is owned and used by anyone who is at least 65 years old, or who has been found to be permanently and totally disabled, can receive a portion of their personal property tax waived if they meet certain income limits established by the ordinance. The person must apply annually with the commissioner of the revenue, giving income statements and other information.

Gowallis, who moved to Suffolk two years ago, said he assumed when he moved that Suffolk would have the tax exemption program.

“I just feel it’s fair to low-income seniors,” Gowallis said. “Once this car stops running, that’s it. I don’t have a replacement situation.”

Councilman Leroy Bennett said he would like to get more information on how such a program would work.

“I think it’s a good program,” Bennett said. “I think it’s worth looking into, because seniors are really having a hard time right now, with the economy and everything else … I would like to take a deeper study of what, if anything, we can do to assist with that.”

Gowallis also mentioned he would like to see the license fee waived for seniors. The move would be good for Suffolk, Gowallis said.

“The more they can allow seniors to keep their cars and afford to keep their cars, the better off they’ll be,” Gowallis said. “How do you go to a doctor’s appointment without a car?”

Any percentage of relief would be better than none at all, Gowallis said.

“We’re talking nickels and dimes, but they add up.”