Veteran appeals denial of homestead exemption

PARKERSBURG – Veteran Michael Scully, who was turned down for the homestead exemption, appealed the decision to the Wood County Commission.

Scully, who is retired from the Army National Guard, said he also saw active duty military service in special operations in Europe, Afghanistan and Africa during his time in the military. He retired in September at the age of 60 from the military.

“According to the code, as I read it, it says when a person who is a resident of the state enters active duty and finished their military career and has retired, or is permanently physically or mentally disabled, and purchases property they are entitled to the homestead,” Scully said.

Assessor Rich Shaffer said when his office receives an application for the homestead, they check to see if the applicant is either 65 years of age or older or permanently disabled.

“One of those two criteria must be met, and if they are not, the application is denied,” Shaffer said.

Scully said he was not 65 not is he permanently disabled.

The homestead tax break exempts the first $20,000 in assessed value on the single-residence, owner-occupied property of the applicant. The exemption usually saves the property owner about $225-$275 annually, depending on the property’s location within the county. The assessor’s office currently has about 9,000 homesteads on file.

During the Monday meeting, Prosecutor Jason Wharton noted the section of state code alluded to pertains only to a residency issue.

“It allows, if the veteran is a resident at the time of their service, to satisfy the residency requirement, you still have to be 65 or older and/or permanently disabled to qualify,” Wharton advised commissioners.

“So we can’t overturn the assessor’s ruling. The bigger question is how to change it, and that would have to be done through the Legislature,” said commissioner Blair Couch.

Scully noted he had 32 1/2 years of military service.

“But the National Guard is not active duty,” commissioner Steve Gainer said.

“It certainly was in my case. I was called to active duty and deployed for a number of years,” Scully said.

Shaffer said the appeal was the first he’s had since taking office.

“If you have served on active duty in the military, veterans should have the opportunity to be on the homestead exemption, but it’s a battle that will have to be fought at the state level,” Couch said.

“There’s nothing we can do on it,” commission President Wayne Dunn. The commissioners denied the appeal.