Changes to the ordinance that governs local tax relief for elderly and disabled homeowners drew the most comments during the public hearing in Town Hall.
“I believe the ordinance as it’s currently situated with the income thresholds being set as they are is wholly unsustainable given that baby boomers are coming into play,” resident Gary Komarowsky said.
Residents 65 years old and older are eligible for the tax credit. The ordinance sets a maximum credit of $500 per eligible resident, which is what residents have received since the ordinance’s creation, and sets income limits of $75,000 for a single person and $150,000 for a married couple.
Currently the ordinance stipulates that the total of all tax credits given out by Beacon Falls can not exceed .05 percent of the prior year’s total real estate assessment in the town.
First Selectman Gerard Smith explained using the grand list and the .05 percent figure the maximum the town could give in the 2013-14 fiscal year is $64,000. If the town takes that $64,000 and divides it out by how many residents applied for and qualified for the credit, it would bring the maximum credit each person would get to $200, he said.
Smith said the Board of Selectmen considered removing the stipulation that tied the credit to the tax assessment and simply giving out the maximum of $500. However, the town’s attorney recommended the town keep the stipulation, but change it to be in line with the state statutes, which say a town cannot give more than 10 percent.
Raising the threshold to 10 percent would allow the town to give up to the maximum $500 credit, Smith said.
This is the only change that is being proposed to the ordinance. Smith said the town looked into lowering the income levels two years ago, but it was voted down by residents.
Komarowsky argued that if nothing in the town’s budget were to change the mill rate would still have to go up because of how many residents would be reaching the age of 65 and be able to receive the credit.
“The mill rate will have to go up even though you’ve done nothing. The mill rate will go up each and every year just to cover the people who are covered in this particular ordinance,” Komarowsky said.
Komarowsky felt the ordinance was no longer doing what the original intent was when it was put into place.
“This ordinance, as I understand it, was put in place to help those in need. I believe it needs to be means tested, not just a matter of reaching age 65,” Komarowsky said.
Komarowsky said that the income levels set by Beacon Falls are higher than surrounding towns and higher than what is set by state statute.
“There’s a number of people who actually need assistance and that’s what this particular ordinance was set in place to do, to help out people living on Social Security and a small pension only,” Komarowsky said.
Resident Eve Melninkaitis, who was on the original committee that drafted this ordinance, said the ordinance was originally crafted to state standards, which had a much lower income limit, and that a person applying for this had to have been a resident of the town for five years before receiving the credit.
Melninkaitis argued the town can’t afford to keep giving the $500 maximum credit.
“It is a tax relief for most of us on a fixed income,” resident Eve Melninkaitis said. “Now, with foreclosures and everything, everybody is hurting and to insist it has got to stay at $500 isn’t really fair to the town.”
The revision to the tax relief ordinance is one of four proposed changes that will be voted on separately at a town meeting scheduled for June 19 at 7 p.m. at the firehouse.
The town is also proposing adding language to the noise ordinance that would cover the use of all-terrain vehicles in town.
“The reason this has come up is there are a couple locations in town where people are just riding ATVs in their yard, around the house, kicking up dust and making noise, and there’s no provision in our ordinance right now for someone to live in peace and quiet because you’re allowed to buy your kid an ATV and he can ride in circles around the house,” Smith said.
Smith said this has been an issue on more than one occasion and there is nothing the town can do about it under the current ordinance.
The proposed changes to the ordinance state that no person may create an unreasonably loud noise with a recreation vehicle. Recreation vehicles are also not permitted to be operated within 50 feet of a property line.
Under the revised ordinance up for a vote, any person found guilty of violating the ordinance faces fines of $50 for the first violation, $75 for the second violation and $100 for the third violation.
Also, if responding to a violation of the noise ordinance causes the police department to incur overtime the violator will have to reimburse the town that cost.
The two remaining revisions would eliminate the Board of Assessors and change the number of members on the Land Use Committee to seven.
Smith said the Board of Assessors has not been filled in a number of years and is a redundant position since the town has hired an assessor and assistant assessor.
The change to the committee would add the land steward and a person from the Water Pollution Control Authority to the committee.