Town looks to increase senior tax relief

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PROSPECT — Officials are exploring updating an ordinance to help more senior citizens receive a tax break.

In 2004, the Town Council adopted an ordinance that provides homeowners 65 years old and over up to $200 in property tax relief. To be eligible for the relief, residents’ income can’t exceed certain levels. The town ordinance follows the income guidelines set by the state, which are currently $34,600 for a single person and $42,200 for a married couple.

“While periodically adjusted, the state’s one-size-fits-all income parameters appear unrealistically low, disqualifying a large percentage of our seniors,” Town Council Chairman Thomas Galvin said.

Officials plan to look at increasing the income guidelines and the amount seniors can receive in a tax break.

Galvin said the council decided to look at updating the ordinance due to the growing number of seniors in town.

“Some towns offer their seniors a plan that provides higher levels of financial assistance with income guidelines more reflective of what it costs to own a home in Connecticut,” Galvin said.

The matter was referred to the council’s ordinance subcommittee.

Council member Theresa Graveline, who chairs the ordinance subcommittee, said the subcommittee has only just begun looking into the issue.

“We always want to try to help seniors,” Graveline said. “We appreciate the years they’ve lived here and the fact they’ve helped the education system with their tax dollars.”

Galvin said giving seniors a larger tax break would mean other residents would have to pay more to offset the loss. However, Galvin contended, that would cost less than if seniors were unable to afford their homes and have to move out of town.

Galvin said when a senior citizen sells his or her home to a young family with children the property goes from providing tax revenue to increasing taxes by approximately $10,000 per student.

“I’m not bringing into question the value of a quality education, but just taking a realistic look at the impact on everyone’s tax bill. Keeping seniors in their homes is a good thing, and even with some tax breaks, this could actually save everyone some tax dollars,” Galvin said.

Galvin said he and his wife currently live in a four-bedroom home and pay $7,000 in taxes. If they were to move out of town, a family with three children could potentially move into that house, which would cost the town approximately more than $30,000 in education costs, he said.

Any change to the ordinance will take time. Officials will have to look at many issues, including the amount of property tax relief the town is willing to give, the income levels for the seniors to receive the relief, and if the town will base the amount of relief on how long a resident has been in town.

A public hearing will be held before any revisions are adopted.

“Like anything else, the process is more complicated than it looks and probably will take longer than one would think,” Galvin said.