Selectmen to vote on property tax credits for seniors

December 16, 2018

GREENWICH — A property tax credit for Greenwich seniors who own their homes is up for approval again — a benefit that can save some elderly residents thousands of dollars.

The credit is designed to help seniors on fixed incomes remain in their homes, according to the town.

“The number of seniors who are getting this credit doesn’t reflect the number who are eligible for it,” said Lori Contadino, director of the town’s Commission on Aging.

“When you’re living on less than $26,000 a year, it’s a program like this or the Medicare savings program and the heat and energy assistance program, which can really make it sustainable for someone to be able to stay in their home,” she said.

The tax credit, which is enacted through a town ordinance, is set to expire at the end of the fiscal year — on June 30, 2019. Efforts are underway to extend it another 10 years until June 30, 2029. That would require the Board of Selectmen, Board of Estimate and Taxation and Representative Town Meeting to all sign off on it.

The selectmen, who discussed the extension last week, are the first step in that journey. Approval is expected at the board’s Dec. 20 meeting.

To qualify, a resident must be 65 or older for the last 12 months and must have spent 183 days in that year living in Greenwich. Qualifying residents who earn less than $26,000 annually would get a $2,352 credit on their property taxes; those earning $26,001 to $32,750 would receive a $1,980 credit.

The scale continues up to those who earn up to $66,000 a year, who would get a $619 credit.

Residents who are 60 or older and who have a spouse 65 or older would be eligible for the credit along with qualifying widows and widowers whose deceased spouses had already been receiving the credit.

The tax credit is also eligible for those age 60 or older who have a spouse 65 or older and the eligible widows and widowers of those whose deceased spouses had already been getting the credit.

Not enough Greenwich seniors know about the tax credit, said Contadino. Only 563 seniors used the credit in 2016, which was down from the 595 who did so in 2015, according to the town’s Assessor’s Office.

The tax credit goes “hand in hand” with the commission’s work to have the town designated as an Age Friendly Community, she said.

To increase awareness, town Tax Collector Howard Richman was asked to include notices about the tax credit in all tax bills sent out, Contadino said.

Richman confirmed he was working with the commission and the Assessor’s Office on the exact wording of the message to get the word out.

“Seniors should know they have the opportunity to get assistance from the town,” said Richman.

The tax credit was first created in 2000. When it was approved again in 2009, the RTM included a sunset clause so it could be reevaluated again in 2014. At that time, the selectmen and other town bodies approved the five-year extension into 2019.

Kip Burgweiger, a member of the RTM and the Commission on Aging, said some of his RTM colleagues had never heard of the tax credit, which has been in place for 18 years.

Contadino credited Burgweiger for his work to research and prepare the ordinance for review and renewal. He is also making sure Greenwich’s tax credit is in line with neighboring municipalities. It was Burgweiger who brought it to the Board of Selectmen for review last week, where it was met with support.

“There are many people in this town with limited income who are desperately trying to retain ownership and remain in their homes, which is what we want,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said last week.

Selectman Sandy Litvack said he supports the commission’s increased outreach work. It doesn’t make sense that fewer residents are using the program even as Greenwich’s aging population is increasing, he said.

“We obviously have people who need this and just aren’t aware of it or aren’t applying it for whatever reason,” Litvack said.

The selectmen, BET and RTM have the power to reduce the 10-year extension to five years. Contadino said they are pushing for a 10-year extension, but they also have their eye on the main goal.

“What’s most important is that we get the ordinance renewed,” she said.

Anyone with questions on the tax credit should contact the Assessor’s Office at 203-622-7885. Residents can apply for the credit for 2019 from Feb. 1 through May 15. The Assessor’s Office can also help seniors determine whether are eligible for any state tax credits.


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