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August 11, 2003

Governor signs bill to improve homestead tax exemption for seniors during Senior Day at the Illinois State Fair
Honors four selected to the senior citizens hall of fame

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. – During “Senior Day” at the Illinois State Fair, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to ensure senior citizens remain eligible for a property tax break no matter if they happen to move during the tax year.


With the new law, senior citizens 65 years of age or older who are homeowners will receive a property tax break based on the number of days the home is occupied.  Unlike other property tax owners, seniors who moved anytime after January 1 were not eligible for the exemption until the following year.


“This bill is another step toward doing all that we can to support our seniors during a time in their lives when they need it the most,” Blagojevich said.  “Our seniors – who spent their lives working hard, raising their families, paying their taxes and building a future for the next generation – should spend the autumn of their lives retired and secure.”


The amount of the homestead exemption will be based on the number of days the home is occupied by its owner. This means that older people will not lose their eligibility for the tax break -- $2,500 for seniors in Cook County and $2,000 for those who live in the state’s other 101 counties -- if they move during the year.  Without the change, an older person who moved after Jan. 1 would not be eligible for the break until after the first of the following year.


The legislation applies to the assessment year 2003 for taxes payable in 2004. The protected pro-rated exemption will be the amount of the senior citizens homestead exemption allowed in the homeowner’s county divided by 365 and multiplied by the number of days that the home is occupied by the eligible person.


Senate Bill 505 was sponsored in the Senate by state Sens. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago; Bill Brady, R-Bloomington; William Peterson, R-Long Grove; Wendell Jones, R-Palatine; and Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago; and in the House by state Reps. Sidney Mathias, R-Buffalo Grove; Marlow Colvin, D-Chicago; Kathleen Ryg, D-Vernon Hills; Patrick Verschoore, D-Milan; and Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City.


Following the bill signing, Blagojevich joined Charles D. Johnson, director of the Department on Aging, in honoring four people who were admitted into the Illinois Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. 


Those selected in four categories from nominations by community groups throughout the state are: Naomi Fowler, 76, Springfield; Phyllis Rames, 73, Vandalia; Wayne F. Schlosser, 72, Belleville, and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, 75, Makanda. 


“These four have left a lasting mark on our state,” Johnson said. “They represent an entire generation of people who have made important contributions to our state in community service, education, performing arts and the work force.”


Simon was traveling outside the country and will formally be recognized at the DuQuoin State Fair. The other three were presented plaques at a special luncheon held on the State Fairgrounds in their honor.


Fowler, a winner in the labor-force category, entered the field of aging in 1973 as director of the Nursing Home Ombudsman Program for 12 counties with the Project LIFE Area Agency on Aging in Springfield. As the ombudsman problem solver, Fowler introduced the "friendly visitors" program to more than 60 nursing homes to assist residents in resolving complaints. Her nomination notes that her interest in education and training proved to be important to developing the ombudsman program, while “her people skills enabled her to build an excellent rapport with nursing home administrators, residents, staff and families.”  


The nomination adds that her "diligence, understanding and administration of the program contributed to the self‑esteem, confidence and retention of the ombudsman staff, which in turn benefited both the residents and administrator."


Fowler later became director of community services for Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, where she continued to advocate for seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease.


Phyllis Rames, winner in the community service category, has been a leader in volunteerism since moving to Vandalia in the 1950s. Her motto is: "Our purpose on earth is to

serve our fellow man."


Rames has organized weekly outings for residents of nursing homes; helped create Going the Extra Mile, a socialization program for homebound people; volunteered for Meals-on-Wheels; raised money for the Fayette County Hospital and many other organizations, and provided ministry under the auspices of the First United Methodist Church.


The former public school teacher is a strong advocate of literacy efforts and has spearheaded many reading programs, Sunday school programs and children’s programs over the years. Her nomination stated: "No one has given more of herself to the community than Phyllis Rames. Her volunteer contributions will benefit residents for many years."


Wayne F. Schlosser, who won in the performance and graphic arts category is a life‑long resident of Belleville who has provided professional, award‑winning graphic art and design services to his community for 55 years. He has provided services to seniors, health and information programs, hospitals, Illinois tourism, schools and universities, museums, cities, chambers of commerce and community service groups such as the Boy Scouts. For over 20 years, he has volunteered, directed and produced graphics for the St. Clair County Health Department, the YMCA, United Way, Salvation Army and Red Cross.


Schlosser has won two statewide awards for his anti‑crime programs and was awarded the "Governors Award for Unique Achievement" earlier this spring. He continues to strive for a "Service Above Self" goal and to use his experience in the graphic arts field to help others.


Paul Simon, who won in the education category, has served the state in a number of capacities. He became the nation’s youngest editor‑publisher at the age of 19 when he accepted a challenge to save the Troy Tribune in Troy, Illinois. He subsequently built a chain of 13 newspapers in southern and central Illinois, which he sold in 1966 to devote himself full time to public service and writing.


He served 14 years in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly, winning the Independent Voters of Illinois’ “Best Legislator Award” every session. Simon was elected lieutenant governor in 1968 where he served as the people’s ombudsman. After narrowly losing the 1972 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Dan Walker, Simon started the public affairs reporting program at Sangamon State University in Springfield, now the University of Illinois at Springfield and lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Simon, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and served Illinois’ 22nd and 24th Congressional Districts for 10 years. During that time, he played a leading role in drafting and enacting major legislation in a wide range of issue areas including education, disability and foreign affairs.


He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and won re‑election to the U.S. Senate in 1990 with the largest plurality of any contested candidate of either party that year. As a senator, Mr. Simon held more than 600 town meetings throughout the state, more than any U.S. in the state’s history. For 40 consecutive years, longer than any other federal officeholder, Simon released an annual detailed financial disclosure report for himself and his wife.


Simon now teaches political science, history and journalism at Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus, where he also heads a public policy institute founded by him.


The Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame was created in 1994 to call attention to the contributions of extraordinary Illinoisans age 65 and older.

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