AP NEWS

Greenwich senior tax credit hits another delay

February 20, 2019

GREENWICH — The attempt to renew an existing property tax credit for low-income Greenwich seniors encountered another delay Tuesday night as the Board of Estimate and Taxation postponed its vote on the issue.

Citing confusion about the legal language in the ordinance, the BET put off the vote. The BET’s Law Committee is expected to meet Thursday morning to work on the language and submit a new draft to the full BET, which will likely bring it up for a vote at its special meeting Feb. 26.

“It seems we would all benefit from another read of this ordinance,” BET Chair Jill Oberlander said.

But there is a deadline looming: The existing tax credit expires June 30. The town Commission on Aging wants the renewal approved and in place before then.

The Representative Town Meeting must approve the ordinance, too. The commission hopes to get the item on the RTM’s call for the March or April meeting. The RTM’s meeting in May is entirely about the municipal budget and no other matters are considered.

“If we get to the April meeting and there has to be more debate, we will still have another month to finalize it, whereas if we’re June and there’s debate this will expire,” Kip Burgweger, a member of the Commission on Aging and the RTM, told the BET on Tuesday.

BET members said they were aware of the time issue, and all indicated they were willing to support the renewal. But members said they wanted the language to be as clear as possible on how and when the tax credit is applied.

“This is a very, very serious matter before the BET,” board member Tony Turner said. “We have 11,000 people in town living at or below the poverty line. And given the difficulty we are having with this, we should give the appropriate people ample time to get the correct version and wording in front of us.”

The latest delay came after months of work to get the tax credit’s renewal through the Board of Selectmen. The selectmen had also pushed back a vote several times in an effort to adjust the language to make more residents eligible for the credit. But ultimately it moved forward to the BET with the possibility of the selectmen revisiting the issue later.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Lori Contadino, director of the Commission in Aging, indicated she was not frustrated with the waiting and wanted to make sure everything was done correctly.

“We just want the absolute best ordinance going forward,” Contadino said. “If that takes another week so everything can be fine-tuned, then absolutely we will take that week.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the tax credit would cover Greenwich seniors as well as people who are permanently disabled, which the selectmen wanted. Residents who qualify would be eligible for a property tax credit if they earn less than $24,000 in household income per year. There is a sliding scale up of eligibility, with the highest category for residents who earn between $50,001 and $66,000.

The goal is to make it possible for Greenwich residents on limited incomes to afford to stay in their homes, according to the Commission on Aging.

The focus of Tuesday’s meeting was on the delay. There was no discussion of the remaining question over the length of the renewal. The Commission on Aging has recommended 10 years, but the BET’s Budget Committee has recommended reducing that to five years to allow for continued evaluation of the credit.

The Budget Committee had earlier added language, changing the eligibility for those with one year of residency in Greenwich to five years of residency.

Contadino said last week the commission had no problem with the change and said most resident who apply for the credit have lived in town for more than five years.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com