City officials continue to search for ways to recoup money the city no longer receives as a result of the unfunded state mandate passed in May giving disabled veterans property tax exemptions.
The tax exemption has resulted in a $480,000 loss in revenue to the city and $51 million to the county. Last month, city manager Andrea Gardner and city councilman Gary Kent traveled to Washington, D.C., and networked with top military officials and elected members of the House and Senate asking the nation bear the burden of paying property taxes of disabled veterans.
Everett Kelley of Copperas Cove spent 23 years in the Army with his last duty station being Fort Hood. He served on three different continents from 1966-1989 and chose to stay in Copperas Cove upon retirement.
“My kids were small and going to school. Copperas Cove is a nice town to raise children in,” Kelley said. “Now grown, my children have all stayed around Copperas Cove, too.”
Kelley is one of thousands of veterans who have chosen to remain in Copperas Cove after military service. And, he is one of several veterans who qualifies for the disabled veterans property tax exemption.
“I think (the mandate) was an excellent thing to do. It helps veterans who are already struggling as it is to maintain their homes,” said Kelley, who is 60 percent disabled through a service-related injury. “The lack of income increases significantly for a disabled person who can’t hold down a full-time job.”
The exemption saves Kelley approximately $2,000 a year in taxes.
“Anybody who serves in the military and has a disability as a result deserves (the tax credit). I earned it,” said Jesus Perez who lives on South Third Street. He spent 25 ½ years in the military and served three tours in the Korean conflict and four tours in Vietnam. Perez estimates the property tax on his home on Third Street is $1,400 to $1,600 annually.
“When you’re in the military, you’re on call 24 hours a day. Especially having served in combat, I deserve (the property tax exemption),” he said. “I gave a lot to this country. It’s hard for a person who hasn’t served in combat to understand. If you haven’t served, you don’t truly value life.”