State and County offer discounts on school and county tax

Date Published: 
November 4, 2016

There may be some wiggle room for taxpayers. Sussex County and the State of Delaware offer property tax discounts for the disabled, senior citizen and low-income residents.

Their Sussex County property must be their primary residence.

There are four type of tax assistance programs: one statewide school tax credit for senior citizens (regardless of income), plus three Sussex County low-income programs for individuals, disabled individuals and elderly residents.

The State exemption is as follows:

• State Senior Citizen School Property Tax Credit (Application due by April 30): Age 65 or older by June 30; must be Delaware resident for at least three years; the law does not prevent more than one person from claiming a credit for the same property, with credits based on share in the property ownership; previous property tax bills must be paid to qualify for the next discount; State application is online.

However, the County applications have so many nuances that citizens are encouraged to call Sussex County Assessment Division for personalized instructions. (Depending on the situation, people might be asked to show tax forms, bank statements or other paperwork.)

For County exemptions, applicants must be residents of the property for the preceding five years. Other requirements are as follows:

• Exemption for Disabled (Jan. 1 to April 30 filing date): Must be totally disabled; income other than Social Security cannot exceed $6,000 ($7,500 if married); and exemption applies to taxable assessments up to $12,500 for school and county property taxes.

• Exemption for Residents Over 65 (Jan. 1 to April 30 filing date): Age 65 years by April 30; income other than Social Security cannot exceed $6,000 ($7,500 if married); and exemption applies to taxable assessments up to $12,500 for school and county property taxes.

• Sussex County Property Tax Subsidy (July 1 to Sept. 30 filing date): Annual income cannot exceed $15,800 ($20,000 if married);; liquid assets or real estate, other than home, must be less than $15,000; and property owner must re-apply each year; and exemption applies to first $16,000 of taxable assessments and to county portion of tax only.

Exemptions are not transferable if the property is sold, and residents must re-file from their new address.

Find out for yourself

Taxes are mailed out in August and must be paid by Sept. 30.

Any property owner can view tax assessments online at www.SussexCountyDE.gov (click on “Tax information” link at the bottom right).

For information or applications, please contact Sussex County Assessment Division; PO Box 589; Georgetown, DE 19947, or telephone (302) 855-7824.

Details are online at www.sussexcountyde.gov/tax-assistance-programs.

The County also offers help for sewer and water hook-ups or service. Details are online at www.sussexcountyde.gov/sewer-and-water-assistance-programs.

Delaware State code also allows municipalities to offer senior citizen tax breaks. People can inquire if their local Town Halls participate.

A look at IRSD taxes

“Of what is sent out, 86 percent is school taxes,” said Gina Jennings, Sussex County finance director.

Last year, Sussex County billed $136 million for total taxes, which includes $117 million for all school taxes, including about $39 million for IRSD, Jennings said. Last year, IRSD taxpayers saved at least $2 million dollars in property tax discount programs.

Each of the school districts charges its residents a different rate for school taxes. Some rates don’t change, except by public referendum, like current expense. Other rates change every year, like capital improvement expenses (similar to paying down a mortgage) and tuition rates (based on enrollment in specialized programs, such as for deaf or autistic students).

Indian River School District’s rate is the lowest of Sussex County’s regular seven school districts (not including Sussex Tech’s rate of 33.65 cents, which all Sussex Countians pay), and would remain such if the current expense referendum passes on Nov. 22

IRSD’s rate is $2.578 per $100 of assessed value. The proposed increase would be by 49 cents.

IRSD, Delmar, Laurel and Woodbridge school districts also have a flat capitation rate per adult, in IRSD ($12 per adult), Woodbridge ($8.82), Delmar ($13) and Laurel ($24.30).

Otherwise, the other tax rates are the same for all residents: county tax ($0.3983), library ($0.0467).

It’s the County’s responsibility to collect school taxes. They wire the money to the State, which is then forwarded to each school district, said Jennings.

“I would assume it all goes to the school because it’s their rate … We bill based on that rate,” she said.