BEACON FALLS — About 60 residents filled the Town Hall Assembly Room Monday night to express their opinion on three proposed ordinance changes.
A proposed change in the local tax relief ordinance for senior citizens and disabled residents proved to be the most controversial among the revisions discussed, and the only one rejected by residents.
Under the current ordinance, senior citizen homeowners, have to earn less than $50,000 for a single person and $75,000 for married couples to qualify for the credit. The ordinance specifies a maximum credit not to exceed $500 per applicant.
The ordinance revision included two proposed changes.
The first change would have lowered the amount married couples can earn to qualify for the credit to $55,000, meaning that senior citizens who earn more than $55,000 would no longer be eligible for the credit.
The elderly and disabled tax credit costs the town about $150,000. This year, 122 of 302 applicants had an income over $55,000.
“This to me does not make sense,” former First Selectman Leonard D’Amico said during the public meeting.
D’Amico said he understands the town’s budget is tight. However, he said, by lowering the limit for married couples the town is singling out senior citizens.
“I think this is wrong,” D’Amico said. “I think this is discriminatory.”
First Selectman Susan Cable pointed out the town’s income limits are higher than the limits specified in state statutes. The state’s General Statutes puts the limit in the $30,000 range.
“We’re one of the highest, just so people know,” Cable said.
The second proposed change was to eliminate a portion of the ordinance that stated the total tax credits given by the town cannot exceed 0.05 percent of the prior year’s total real estate tax. The Board of Selectmen waived this requirement this year. If the board hadn’t waived it, the maximum credit given would have been $275 because of the tight budget.
Ultimately, a motion to reject the revision was approved 48-3 with four abstentions due to the opposition of lowering the income limit.
Town officials are expected to revisit the ordinance again in an attempt to get the change regarding the total tax credits residents can receive passed.
The other two proposed revisions that went to a vote Monday passed unanimously.
One change was to the ordinance for tax relief for volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics or ambulance drivers.
The change allows 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 of $1,000 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.
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.
The other change approved was a revision to eliminate the ordinance establishing training and hourly requirements for elected members of the Board of Assessors. Cable said the ordinance is no longer needed because the town has a certified assessor and assistant assessor.