Officials eye change to senior tax relief ordinance

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BFTownHall
BEACON FALLS — If the local option tax relief ordinance remains unchanged, senior citizens in Beacon Falls could see a drop of 60 percent in their tax credit.

The current ordinance, which was put into practice in 2006, stipulates that the total of all tax credits given out by Beacon Falls shall not exceed .05 percent of the prior year’s total real estate tax assessed in the town. The ordinance sets a maximum credit of $500 per resident.

The tax credit is available to residents 65 years old and older.

Last year, when the maximum amount of $500 was given to each senior, the total amounted to approximately $144,000.

According to the assessor’s office, the total amount the town would be able to give out this year, based on the current language in the ordinance, will be $64,149.

“Technically, right now, according to the ordinance, we can’t issue a credit for more than $200. That’s what the ordinance says. That’s what we legally have to do. The only way we can give $500 again is if we legally change the ordinance,” First Selectman Gerard Smith said during a special Board of Selectmen meeting May 22.

Smith pointed out that continuing the practice of giving out $500 would mean a difference of approximately $80,000 this year.

“That extra money is made up by the rest of the taxpayers,” Smith said.

Senior citizens raised concerns with the income limits imposed by the ordinance during the meeting.

Currently the ordinance stipulates that the maximum income for those eligible for the tax credit is $75,000 for a single person and $150,000 for a couple.

This is not the first time these portions of this ordinance have come under question.

In the past, Smith explained, officials attempted to lower the income limit and eliminate the sentence that limits the amount of credit.

Smith said many years ago proposals do this were presented at a public hearing where they were rejected, and in July 2011 they were presented at a town meeting where they were rejected again.

Smith said one of the reasons they were rejected is the changes tied both the lowering of the income limits and the elimination of the amount of credit together.

During last week’s meeting, residents spoke in favor of eliminating both the income limits and the total amount of the credit.
Residents who spoke felt it’s unfair for the town to impose income limits on seniors when handing out tax credits.

The residents also felt since the $500 had been given out since the ordinance was put into place, the same amount of money should continue to be given out.

“A precedent has been set and everybody has gone along with that,” resident Thomas Beatrice said.

Smith said the town will hold a public hearing on the ordinance and make sure that, if the changes were adopted, they would be implemented in this year’s tax bill, which are set on June 30.

“I think we’ve heard what the public wants and we understand,” Smith said. “My hope is to bring a document that we can all agree on and vote to put this to rest so we don’t have to worry about the number being set by the grand list and, if everybody is in agreement, that the number should be up to $500, then it should be the flat $500 with no other mechanism in there to make it lower.”