Council approves revised tax relief ordinance


PROSPECT — The Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved revisions to a local property tax relief ordinance that increase the tax credit and the income requirements under the program.

The ordinance, which provides a local tax credit for eligible senior citizens and totally disabled homeowners, was first adopted in 2004. Under the previous language, residents that are at least 65 years old or receive permanent total disability benefits under Social Security, own property in town and meet income limits of $35,200 a year for a single person and $42,900 for a married couple — income restrictions used by the state tax relief program — can apply for a property tax credit of up to $200.

The revised ordinance increases the maximum credit to up to $400 and ups the incomes limits to 1.5 times the state’s limits, or $52,800 for single residents and $64,350 for married couples.

The credit is prorated based on how long a resident has lived in town. Under the revised ordinance, eligible residents that have lived in town one to five years will receive $200, while residents that have lived in town for six or more years will get the full $400 credit.

This is a change from revisions that were presented during a public hearing in September. At the time, the proposal prorated the credit based on four groups: residents that lived in Prospect for one to five years, six to 10 years, 11 to 20 years, and 21 years or more.

The residency requirements were a major point on contention among the residents that spoke during the September hearing. Council member Jeffrey Slapikas, who chairs the Ordinance Subcommittee, said the committee modified the proposal to limit it to two tiers after hearing from the public.

Awarding the credit based on residency remained a sticking for a few residents who addressed the council on Tuesday.

“The people that just moved into town don’t have to pay just half the taxes. They have to pay the full taxes,” resident Edward Kearney told the council.

Kearney asked the council to consider treating everyone the same no matter how long they have lived in town. He said doing so could be a positive and attract more retirees to town.

Slapikas called the revisions “a stepping stone.” He said officials don’t know the financial impact of the changes, yet.

The town gave about $23,000 in credits under the program in the current budget. That figure is expected to increase significantly since the credits and income limits are higher.

“We have no way of knowing how many people will qualify with this increase as we do not know taxpayers’ income levels,” Slapikas said.

Slapikas said once the subcommittee knows the impact on the budget it will review the ordinance to decide what direction to go in in the future.

Council member Carla Erickson-Perugini said she would like to see a higher tax credit in order to provide more help for senior citizens struggling financially.

Slapikas said the subcommittee completely agrees and reiterated that the ordinance will be looked at again once the financial impact of the changes is known.

“Once we have that answer we agreed as a committee that we will revisit it,” Slapikas said.