Borough ponders changes to elderly tax program

NAUGATUCK — Lucy Wysokinski sat in the lobby of Town Hall on Monday morning greeting people who came into the building.

Wysokinski is one of 18 senior citizens who work at Town Hall as part of the borough’s Elderly Tax Credit Program. Under the program, seniors work 50 hours a year, either as a greeter in the lobby or in one of the offices, and receive a $500 credit on their municipal taxes.

Changes may be coming to the program, though.

During the Board of Mayor and Burgesses’ Feb. 6 meeting, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said he would be open to hearing possible changes, including lowering the amount of money the program pays and the number of people the borough hires.

Hess said the budget for the program is $9,000 a year. Reducing the credit or number of people would reduce the amount of the overall budget, he said.

Regardless of any other changes made, Hess said he wants to eliminate the greeter position, which the whole board felt isn’t doing anything useful for the borough.

“Anyone of the 18 people who are eligible would work in the assessor’s office, the tax collector’s office, the town clerk’s office, the park department or the mayor’s office,” Hess said. “Any borough office would be acceptable to me, as long as they were doing real work.”

The program, which started in 2002, requires people to be at least 65 years old and make under a certain amount of money a year — $35,200 for an individual and $42,900 for a couple.

Wysokinski said she’s been using the program for years and it has helped her with her taxes.

Although she works as a greeter this year, Wysokinski said she was assigned to the assessor’s office last year and would be happy to do whatever the borough asked of her. She said it wouldn’t matter to her if the board cut the greeter position, as long as it keeps the program as a whole.

“If they want to cut it, they can’t think it is that important,” Wysokinski said of the position. “I hope they don’t cut the program. We need it. It helps.”

Former Mayor Joan Taf, who helped create the program during her administration, asked the board not to eliminate it.

“People came to my office and said, ‘We can’t stay in our homes because we are on a fixed income.’ So I formed a committee and … we came up with the program at $500,” Taf said.

Taf said she has a personal stake in the program as she is currently one of the 18 seniors who take part in it.

“Whoever thought that I would be on it? But I am a widow and I only get my social security and nothing else,” Taf said.

The board is expected to bring any proposed changes forward during its meeting in March. If it votes on any changes, the proposal will go before the Joint Board of Mayor and Burgesses and Finance as the 2018-19 budget is crafted.