By Meredith McCulloch
An option for deferred payment of taxes for older residents has been available since 2010, but only one homeowner has taken advantage of the option. The income limit was set at $40,000 with an interest rate of 8% and would allow deferment of taxes on their property until the property is sold or the owner dies. The goal of such an option is to make it possible for more seniors to stay in their homes. As Selectman Mike Rosenberg expressed it, “it allows seniors to use more of their income on everyday living expenses.” The belief is that the option has not been utilized because the terms are not favorable.
Article 24 would adopt new terms, with an annual income limit of $58,000 and a proposed interest rate of 6 percent. Speakers in support expressed concern that few options, such as downsized housing, are available within the town. The Board of Assessors and Finance Department had sought a rate that would serve the goal of helping seniors to stay in their home while doing no harm to the town’s cash flow. Programs in over 50 towns were reviewed.
Assessor Ron Cordes said the Assessors support the article, but each assessor had struggled with the interest rate, and individually feel it may be too high. In the end, Walter St. Onge moved to amend the article to change the interest rate to 3%. After some debate the amendment was passed, setting the interest rate at 3 percent. The Assessors will monitor the use of the program and may recommend changes to a future Town Meeting if necessary.