Benton Harbor will implement a policy that allows property owners who live at or below the federal poverty level to apply for property tax relief.
The policy allows a single homeowner making no more than $1,260 dollars a year or families of up to 8 making $41,320 dollars annually to apply for a yearly property tax exemption.
To apply, a single homeowner couldn’t have more than $35,000 in assets , while for a family of 8 the total would be $7,000.
The asset total would exclude the principal residence and one vehicle per property. If the homeowner owns a second vehicle the value would be added to their total assets.
City Manager Darwin Watson said the city is responding to a need in the community.
“There has been a number of persons who have come in and basically made a plea,” Watson said, “‘Hey, I’ve lost a job, lost some income, my taxes are high,’ and want to apply; And there was no mechanism to do that.”
Watson said that while the application for the exemption is submitted at a local level, the state tax tribunal has final say on approval.
The policy is connected to a state statute that allows for income-based property tax exemptions.
Watson said it’s hard to estimate how many people may benefit from the program.