Proposal Allows Some Residents to Work Off Part of Tax Bill

The Select Board recommended approval of Article 8 on the Special Town Meeting warrant giving a set of qualifying residents the opportunity to reduce their annual property taxes by up to $1,000 by working for a town department. Photo: Robert Dorer

A proposal on the Nov. 6 Special Town Meeting warrant would open the door for up to 15 qualifying residents to reduce their annual property taxes by up to $1,000 by working for a town department.

Article 8 proposes accepting the provisions of a state law giving residents at least 60-years-old the opportunity to be paid minimum wage by what is described as “volunteer service.” Another provision in the article offers the same deal to qualifying veterans.

The Select Board voted on Monday to recommend approval of the article after Finance Director David Castellarin described how it would be implemented and who would benefit.

Castellarin said he and other department heads, including Assessor Matthew Lanefski, Council on Aging Director Allison Cservenschi, and Heidi Porter, Director of Health and Human Services, “discussed how this would be a good thing for the town.”

Residents would work with the assessors’ office on income and age eligibility, Castellarin said, and the Council on Aging staff would administer the system. Most tasks envisioned comprise routine office work.

Up to 15 qualifiers could be employed, Castellarin said. Payments would be at the end of the calendar year, offsetting the real estate tax liability.

Select Board member Margot Fleischman endorsed the idea. She said that as Melrose’s chief of staff and director of strategic initiatives and communications, “I employ a lot of folks on this basis. We match people to jobs they qualify for.”

Castellarin said the source of the money would be the assessors’ overlay, which is set aside to accommodate potential tax abatements.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get out of the house and do something and feel important,” the Finance Director said. Fleischman agreed, saying her experience in Melrose has been positive, and the program is an answer to “social isolation.”

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