Tax-deferral program expanded for senior property owners
Part of the town's program to provide tax relief for elderly property owners has been expanded by a Representative Town Meeting vote.
The legislative body last year made changes to the tax-credit and tax-freeze programs, but put off changes to expand the tax-deferral program because of questions on whether the deferred taxes could be collected eventually.
"We put the brakes on that option," RTM member Thomas McCarthy, who chaired the subcommittee on tax relief, said at Monday's meeting. He said concerns about collection have been resolved, when officials learned the tax lien imposed as part of the deferral process needs to be filed in the context of the entire tax-relief program and not solely under the tax-deferral segment.
Under the changes approved almost unanimously -- Minority Leader Hal Schwartz cast the only dissenting vote and two members, Mary McCullough and Amy Mezoff abstained -- eligible seniors could defer up to 50 percent of their property tax bills. Under the deferral program, a lien is placed on the property, which must be paid when the home is sold.
McCarthy said expansion of the tax-relief program is designed to address concerns of the town's older residents who say they can no longer afford to live in town. But, he added, officials doubt many seniors are likely to take advantage of the tax-deferral program. In fact, McCarthy said, there are only 17 households enrolled in the deferral program now.
He said local officials checked with those in other towns and found their experience is the same.
"The lien becomes a deal breaker," McCarthy said. "It's a last resort."