Proposed ordinance changes going to a vote

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BEACON FALLS — Three proposed ordinance changes will be the subject of a July 25 Town Hall meeting.

A public hearing was held July 6 to debate the changes to ordinances, which includes altering income limits for elderly and disabled tax relief.

Currently, homeowners have to earn less than $50,000 for single people and $75,000 for married couples to qualify for the credit.

The Board of Selectman proposed lowering the income limit for married couples to $55,000, putting it more in line with the rest of the state. The ordinance specifies a credit not to exceed $500 per applicant.

The state income limit is $35,000, according to First Selectman Susan Cable.

“Beacon Falls has been extremely generous on this,” Cable said.

Residents also brought up another provision that specified that the total tax credits doled out by the town cannot exceed 0.05 percent of the prior year’s total real estate tax. If the Board of Selectman had followed the ordinance this year, the maximum credit would have only been $275 because of the tight budget, according to Selectman Michael Krenesky. However, seniors will still receive the full $500 this year because the board previously voted to waive that requirement.

At the regular July 11 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the board voted to take this provision limiting the benefit out of the ordinance, as part of the proposed changes to the ordinance.

The elderly and disabled tax credit costs the town about $150,000, according to Cable. This year, 122 of 302 applicants had an income over $55,000, which would no longer qualify for the benefit if the changes go through.

In addition to the senior and disabled tax credit, the Board of Selectman proposed changes to the ordinance for tax relief for volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics or ambulance drivers.

Under the current ordinance, volunteer emergency personnel can earn a tax credit of up to $1,000 based on number of years of service.

The proposed changes would allow volunteers, who are in active military service, to still qualify for the tax relief. Also, individuals over the age of 65 who have completed 20 years of service would receive the maximum benefit for the rest of their lives. The benefit would be passed on to the surviving spouse upon the death of the participant. Anyone currently collecting benefits would qualify for the permanent tax relief.

Cable said some older volunteers were worried about losing their credit when they couldn’t volunteer any more.

“We didn’t want them to loose out on this benefit,” Cable said.

Six volunteers would qualify for the program if it was implemented this year, with that number projected to rise to 25 in 2035.

The program currently costs the town about $25,000.

Another change to the ordinance would specify that the chief executive officer of the volunteer organization provide a list of eligible members to the Service Award Committee to review before submitting it to the Assessor’s office.

The third proposed change ordinance would eliminate an ordinance establishing training and hourly requirements for elected members of the Board of Assessors. The ordinance is no longer necessary because the Board of Assessors is a defunct group, Cable said. The town hires a certified assessor and assistant assessor.

A town meeting is scheduled for July 25 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to vote on the changes.