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Vote would expand property tax credit to include disabled residents

January 24, 2019

GREENWICH — As the Board of Selectmen approved a 10-year extension on the town’s property tax credit for eligible seniors, they also voted to extend the benefits to residents who are permanently disabled.

The board’s unanimous approval came at a meeting Thursday morning after months of work on the issue. The goal of the tax credit, put together by the town’s Commission on Aging, is to provide economic relief and make it easier for elderly and disabled resident to stay in their own homes in town.

The extension on the tax credit still needs the approval of the Representative Town Meeting and the Board of Estimate and Taxation before it expires on June 30.

Beyond the new language to expand the credit to include residents with disabilities, the selectmen had also pushed to make more residents eligible. But the Commission on Aging did not immediately have data available to show the impact of any possible changes.

Kip Burgweger, a commission member who has worked on the revised credit, told the selectmen there was a time crunch to consider on the approvals.

“This will expire on June 30 (without the extension) and it needs to go before the BET and then the RTM,” Burgweger said. To get the needed approval, it must go to the RTM in April, which would require submitting the item “to the RTM before noon on March 15. We really have a short period of time to finish the work here and go to the BET.”

Commission on Aging members are expected to return to the Board of Selectmen at a later date with information and analysis about the credit.

“We want to give the most impact of the credit to those who most need it,” commission Chair Patricia Burns said. “Even if we increase it to, let’s say, $76,000, we also want to make sure the people on the lower end actually get more. They’re the ones for whom this is going to make a huge, life-changing impact.”

Selectman Sandy Litvack agreed and said it was important to get all of the facts to support the need for the credit. He said it would not be approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation or the Representative Town Meeting without it.

Litvack added, though, that he understood how difficult it was to get that data. He said that even with the selectmen voting, they needed that data and Burns pledged they would get it.

“We agree, but we need the time to get it in,” Burns said.

Under the credit, seniors who own their homes in Greenwich would be eligible for the largest credit if they earn less than $24,000 in household income. The sliding scale for the tax credit would go up to seniors who earn between $50,001 and $66,000.

The credit is not automatic; seniors must apply to the town assessor’s office, which evaluates all applications.

The credit has been in place since 2000. It was last approved by the RTM in 2014 for a five-year term. The Commission on Aging will be pushing for a 10-year extension this time, which is what it originally wanted in 2014 before the RTM cut it to five years.

Alan Gunzburg, a member of the town’s Board of Human Services and chair of the first selectman’s Advisory Committee for People With Disabilities, applauded the inclusion of disabled residents under the tax credit. He agreed with Burns that if there were later revisions to the tax credit, it should be to increase the benefit for residents on the low end of the credit eligibility.

“We can make a very big difference in many people’s lives if it the highest amount of credit went up to people making $30,000,” Gunzburg said. “Right now, if you make $26,000 or less you get the highest amount of credit. I think it should be up to $30,000…It’s a life-changing amount of money. It can change a whole month of your budget.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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