The Representative Town Meeting on Monday adopted changes to the town's senior tax-relief program to allow for tax credits based on a percentage of a property tax bill.
Changes to the tax-deferral program, however, were put off to a future date.
"We did hit a speed bump relative to one element," Thomas McCarthy, R-8, chairman of the tax relief subcommittee, said in reference to the deferral program. But the changes that were adopted for the tax credit, he said, "puts the size of the credit back in perspective. The credit has been flat, all the while taxes increase every year." Now, McCarthy said, the size of the credit will be adjusted every year.
Income eligibility levels were also increased to qualify for tax relief, and a person's marital status is no longer taken into consideration.
Under the tax-credit changes, a person 65 years old or over with income of up to $16,700 will receive a tax credit equal to 67 percent of the property tax bill. That percentage decreases as income levels rise. A person with income between $50,601 and $70,000 will receive a tax credit of 15 percent of the tax bill.
There are caps, however, to the tax credit. At the lowest income level, the credit cannot exceed $5,000, while at the highest level the cap for the credit is $1,400.
"We feel it's a measured approach," McCarthy said.
Originally, the committee had proposed changing the tax-deferral program to allow eligible seniors to defer up to 50 percent of the gross tax each year. A lien would then be put on the senior's property, and the deferred taxes would become due when the owner died or the property was sold.
But RTM members learned that state statutes apparently do not allow the town to collect those taxes if the lien has been in place for 15 years or more.
Now, the tax relief ordinance as adopted allows for a tax deferral of up to 13 years, but as in the past, allows for the deferral of only the amount of a tax increase itself. The qualifying income level was increased from $77,800 to $80,000.
The income limit for the third tax-relief program, a tax freeze, was changed from $49,600 to $50,600.
The ordinance also requires that a special committee be convened in January 2014 to again review the tax relief program.
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