Edgewood Mayor Daryl Eidinger says he intends to reimburse Pierce County for a property tax break he received for his home under a low-income tax reduction program for which he no longer qualifies.
His total property tax bill for 2017 was $1,704.54 for the three-bedroom home. The county assessed the value of the home at $297,400, according to county records. On-line real estate sites Redfin and Realtor.com estimate the 1,448-square-foot, single-level home is worth between $346,915 and $356,289.
The typical taxpayer without the low-income tax exemption would pay $4,163 on a similarly valued home at the county’s average tax rate of $14 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
The county is still figuring what Eidinger owes, said Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan. That amount, depending on the specifics of Eidinger’s case, could exceed $2,400.
Under state law, property owners who are disabled or who are 61 or older and whose income is less than $40,000 a year are entitled to reduced property taxes.
The law exempts qualified taxpayers from “excess levies” approved by voters and also some regular levies and freezes the value of their home for tax purposes.
Some 12,000 Pierce County taxpayers take advantage of the tax break, Lonergan said.
Eidinger said he initially qualified for the tax reduction because the mayor’s salary was $1,300 a month until last June, when the City Council, on the recommendation of a city salary commission, raised the pay to $5,137 a month.
At that new rate, effective June 21, 2016, Eidinger makes $61,644 yearly for being mayor of the city of nearly 10,000 residents. Under the previous salary schedule, the mayor’s annual salary was $15,600.
Eidinger said he filed a notice with Lonergan’s office Tuesday, informing the county he no longer qualifies for the low-income tax benefit.
He filed the change notice after The News Tribune on Monday sought his explanation for why he was entitled to the tax benefit.
The mayor said he had been intending to file the notice earlier, but didn’t comply with the rule until recently.
The mayor said Monday he had earlier filed another change notice, but the notice hadn’t yet been processed. He hand-delivered the change-of-income notice Tuesday to ensure it was recorded properly. He said the county will send him a notice of additional taxes due, which he intends to pay.
“There’s no issue.” he said.
Eidinger said he was tardy in filing the notification because he hadn’t realized his 2016 income would exceed the $40,000 limit.
State law requires property tax payers to notify the county if their income increases or if their disability is cured. The income limit includes all salaries and wages as well as Social Security and pension benefits and other pay for services earned or received by all members of the household.
Eidinger also received a per-meeting fee from Pierce Transit, where he is on the board representing smaller cities. According to the agency, Pierce Transit paid him $1,980 last year for attending transit board-related meetings.
Eidinger, 69, said he and his wife, Susan, receive Social Security benefits of an amount he declined to disclose.
He filed an annual Personal Financial Affairs Statement (F-1) with the state Public Disclosure Commission on April 11. He told the state he earned between $1 and $4,499 in 2016 from a window-cleaning business.
The mayor reported neither his Pierce Transit pay nor his Social Security income on the reporting form, which specifically notes that Social Security income in excess of $2,400 annually must be included.
Even without counting those Social Security payments, which can amount to thousands of dollars annually, Eidinger’s and his wife’s income last year exceeded the $40,000 property tax break limit.
County records show Eidinger and his wife had claimed they were eligible for the senior citizen low-income tax reduction for five years.
Eidinger’s opponent in the 2015 mayoral race, Wendal Kuecker, said he had raised the issue of the property tax reduction with Eidinger during the campaign. He said Eidinger told him then that he would file an income correction notice with the county, but apparently failed to do so until recently.
The city formerly had a city-manager-council form of government, but changed it to a strong mayor form of government by a vote of the people. Under the strong mayor system, the mayor operates the city government as its chief administrative officer.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663