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RTM Members Propose Changes to Senior Tax Relief Program

The goal of proposed, updated plan is to help ease the tax burden on Fairfield's struggling senior taxpayers, RTM members said.

A subcommittee of Fairfield's Representative Town Meeting proposed changes Monday to Fairfield's Senior Tax Relief Program, an effort they hope helps the retired population stay in town.

The current senior tax relief program is compromised of three options -- a two-tiered tax credit program (applicants file as single or married); a freeze program (which freezes a year-over-year tax increase for up to five years); and a deferral program (same as the freeze program, but there is a payback and lien provision).

The proposed plan -- which will be voted on at a future RTM meeting -- leaves the freeze option virtually untouched, but alters the credit and referral programs. Instead of a two-tiered married/single credit system, eligible seniors will receive a tax credit based on the percentage of taxes due, but the credits will be capped at a certain amount.

Under the proposed plan, the deferral program will be limited to taxpayers 75 and older (the other two options are open to residents 65 and older). A resident can defer up to 50 percent of his or her property tax, and the program includes a payback and lien provision.

Other changes include boosts to the qualifying maximum incomes for each of the programs so more seniors can participate. The eligible income for the credit option would rise from $60,900 to $70,000; for the freeze program, from $49,600 to $50,600; and from $77,800 to $80,000.

RTM member Tom McCarthy, R-8, and chair of the committee said the proposed plan -- especially limiting the deferral program to taxpayers 75 and older and capping the deferral to 50 percent -- could make the senior tax relief program "self-sustaining" in the long run.

Currently, the program is funded by four percent of the town's tax revenues, which equates to about $9 million for the two-year program. Demand for senior tax relief has never reached that $9 million limit, members of the committee said.

But some town representatives were concerned that the proposed changes to the deferral option could enough taxpayers to put the credit system in jeopardy.

"We're significantly changing the options; it opens it up for more people to participate," Ed Bateson, R-3, said. "It's a good thing, but I'm paying for it."

Other members felt that the program -- which, in the town budget, is categorized as a deduction from the revenue section -- want to see it as a line item in the expense portion of the budget to better see the impact on the town's spending.

"We're assuming the town can afford that [$9 million limit]," John Mitola, D-2, said. "That's a huge assumption."

McCarthy said he did not think the program, if updated with the proposed changes, would reach its $9 million limit.

"This is new; it's a more generous program for seniors who say they cannot afford this town," he said. "We don't think it will be a problem, but we just don't know yet."

The RTM will continue its discussion of the proposed tax relief plan at a future meeting.

KEVIN DILLON November 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Programs like this should not be based on age but ability to pay. Why would this be limited to those 75 and older? The premise of the plan is a good one. If a homeowner is forced to sell because of ever increasing taxes and that home has no kids that need to be in the school system it is in the town's best interest to keep that homeowner there even at the expense of a reduction in current tax revenue. A home with no kids cost the town zero to educate. If the tax is 10,000.00, that is a positive cash flow of 10K for the town. If that home gets sold to a family with three kids, the tax remains the same and it will cost the town roughly 45K to educate, meaning the town loses 35K on that home. But if we wait until the homeowner is 75 years of age, as the program has discovered, there won't be many who will be around to apply because most by then would have downsized. It should be expanded to include as many homes as possible that would qualify due to ability to pay, not age. You may need to add a caveat that would limit the program to homes with no or limited mortgage given the town needs to be repaid out of the proceeds of the sale of the home and if the home has a large mortgage there may not be enough to reimburse the town when the time comes. But if the purpose of the program is to keep a couple in their homes after the kids have been educated and moved on, the age criteria should be greatly reduced to encompass more homeowners and keep couples in their homes.
Stanley Simpleton November 27, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I have an idea - give the ENTIRE town tax relief by controlling excess spending throughout the town and putting a freeze on the annual budget increase. Reduce some of the fluff in the budget and focus on the mandatory spending requirements such as public safety(police and fire), education and public works.
steve sheppard November 27, 2012 at 02:33 PM
At those income levels I would bet there are alot of non seniors in town that make that amount. My guess is that about half the town, no matter what age braket, is in that income range. I know if I retired today my income would be on the low end of the range discussed above.
Concerned Fairfielder November 27, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Seniors should sell their homes and downsize. Many live in homes far too large.
Jim Eastwood November 27, 2012 at 06:17 PM
To all Great Idea to freeze the taxes--Many, Many other Towns do that !!! We can debate the costs of running the Town all we want to, but the Real Bottom line is we (Fairfield) MUST Increase ut Commercial Tax income--Just llok at what we had in the 70's- We have to get awy from that fact that our tax base is over 80% residential. And How dare you suggest that "Seniors" should sell their Homes- Many have lived here all their lives and their properties are paid for. Have a Great Day and Just Pay and Pay(Your Taxes !!!)
OneFairfield November 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
FYI...Every dollar seniors don't pay, means the rest of the taxpayers have to make up! That means the non-senior poor person, people putting kids through college, the unemployed homeowner etc. Some of these people can least afford to pay more while they wait to become seniors. Seniors get Social Security! Nothing against seniors but what about the rest of us.
Jim November 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I agree 100% - Once my kids are in college I am moving to a more tax friendly state. Fairfield is a great town but its for familes. I'd be off to tax friendly FL in a minute and hang out with folks my own age. Flights are cheap to LGA from FL you can always come back and visit. Lets not pass the burden on to the rest of us who are going to get hit with more taxes this year. Here is a list of the best places to live tax wise in retirment....http://www.topretirements.com/state/most_tax-friendly_states_for_retirement.html CT is one of the worst places to retire. Save your money and ours - please leave and go enjoy your retirement with your peers. You will have a better quality of life and save money. I'll see you in 15 years!
Jim November 27, 2012 at 08:11 PM
http://www.topretirements.com/state/most_tax-friendly_states_for_retirement.html
Tucker November 27, 2012 at 08:18 PM
And what about the lifetime of taxes these seniors have paid into the town coffers? Are we to ignore that point? Yet again I am not surprised given the history of attitudes on this board. Having the gall to say that seniors should leave Fairfield is deplorable.
Jim November 27, 2012 at 08:33 PM
They bought their houses on the cheap and their tax rates where not out of control like they are now......realize the value of that and move somplace and pocket the money. No sales, income or inheritance tax in FL or AZ....do your family a favor and protect the money you have. They should be smart and leave - not saying anyone should go but those who complaing and ask for special tax breaks should go. Stay if you are willing to pay
H Tuttle November 27, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Nah, that would never work. It makes too much sense. ;-) Much easier just to keep squeezing everyone like grapes for more juice each year... though a bitter wine that will end up brewing in the end...
Jim November 27, 2012 at 08:50 PM
How about they get the break now and when they sell their house they pay that break back.

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