CUMBERLAND — The Town Council has enabled more residents to take part in the senior citizen tax deferment program by lowering the age requirement and increasing the income guidelines for eligible seniors.
Initiated in 2003, the senior citizen tax deferment program is a tax-relief aid that works like a loan. It allows qualified seniors to defer all or part of their taxes and special assessments on their primary home. The loan is paid when the property is sold, or upon the death of the participant.
The intent of the program is to help seniors from being forced out of their long-time neighborhoods if it becomes too expensive to stay there. Even with house values falling, many older people say they can’t afford the price of homes in certain areas. In some cases, they move in with family or end up moving to low-income housing. Others often relocate to a completely different town.
Because many seniors are on fixed incomes, they often find themselves facing tough spending decisions, like going without medications in order to pay bills.
"This has been a popular program and one that has been imitated throughout the state," Mayor Daniel J. McKee told the council at a meeting last week. "The intent is that seniors who are on fixed incomes would not have to leave their homes because of increases in their property taxes."
"We have several dozen people on the program, which we review every year and this year we think we can increase the earning power and decrease the age so more people can be involved," the mayor added.
The council's amendments to the tax deferment ordinance as recommended by McKee now lower the eligibility age from 66 to 65 and increase the household earnings requirement from $28,000 to $42,000 for a single senior citizen, and $33,000 to $50,000 for the household. The interest rate on the taxes deferred is 2 percent per year.
This was the first time in four years that the tax deferment ordinance has been amended.
"This is a very important program," noted Town Council President James. T. Higgins. "This is a program the council has supported because it’s important that our senior citizens be able to stay in their homes."
In other business last week, the council approved a resolution authorizing McKee to enter into a contract with J.H. Lynch and Sons for 2011-2012 Phase I and Phase II paving.
The town received a total of five bids with J.H. Lynch submitting the low bid at $2,669,706.
Public Works Director Alan Brodd said Phase 1 will include those roads that are difficult to plow without paving repairs, while Phase 2 will include roads that can wait for paving until the spring.
Phase 1 paving work will begin immediately, Brodd said.