Driscoll, Henon seek to help seniors manage property taxes

Driscoll and Henon held a news conference to promote Driscoll’s new bill to help Philadelphia senior citizens with the city’s property tax freeze program.

TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

State Rep. Mike Driscoll and City Councilman Bobby Henon last Friday held a news conference outside the Liberty Bell Diner to promote Driscoll’s new bill intended to increase the number of Philadelphia senior citizens eligible for the city’s property tax freeze program.

Driscoll and Henon invited area seniors to the news conference.

Driscoll introduced his bill on June 11, and it has been assigned to the Finance Committee, of which he is a member. So far, Reps. Jared Solomon and Ed Neilson have signed on as cosponsors.

“I think we can do it,” Driscoll said. “It’s a big deal. We’re going to work hard to get it done.”

The city’s property tax freeze program, in Driscoll’s view, has been a godsend for seniors. Eligibility is tied to the income limits established for the state Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) and its Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET). Those limits have not been adjusted since 2006.

Driscoll believes something has to be done because retired seniors live on a fixed income while health care and other costs rise. He points to his dad, Joseph, who still lives in Oxford Circle and is hesitant to use the air conditioner for fear of a high electric bill. That’s typical of people who grew up in the Depression, he said.

The legislation would set income eligibility at 225 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Those guidelines are updated annually, reflecting current economic conditions and directing relief to those who need it most.

“It’s not a one-time fix,” Driscoll said. “These seniors need help.”

The current annual income limits are $23,500 for singles and $31,500 for couples, “which isn’t much,” Henon said.

Henon will not vote for Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed property tax increase, and Driscoll opposes it, too.

Henon also questions the need for the latest property reassessments, which will increase real estate tax bills for many homeowners.

The councilman said health care, co-pays, inflation and the overall cost of living are all going up, and seniors need help, especially if they have an emergency such as a burst pipe or broken hot water heater.

“They’re on fixed incomes,” he said. “They’re barely making ends meet.”

Henon’s office works closely with people applying for the program, and he is looking forward to higher income limits making more people eligible.

“I have people who miss it by $50,” he said.

Henon said he is hopeful there is no pushback to the legislation from city officials worried about the loss of revenue. ••

For more information on the city’s senior citizen property tax freeze program, call Councilman Bobby Henon’s office at 215–683–9220.