Seniors’ lost tax break restored
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Seniors lost tax break restored

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 6:17 AM EDT
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The Board of Selectmen has approved a plan to restore tax relief benefits to about 200 elderly residents.

The board unanimously approved a motion Monday night to raise the cap on funding in the Elderly Tax Relief Program by about $300,000 to cover people who were shut out after the program exceeded its funding limit.

“Because of the shortfall, we had to legally say earlier that they would not receive it this year, but we, the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance, have agreed to refund all of these monies,” First Selectman Carl Balestracci said.

The Board of Finance still needs to finalize the change.

The town’s senior tax relief ran into trouble this year when, following a revaluation, the program went over its funding cap by more than $300,000. That led town officials to cancel benefits for about 200 participants.

The program, which Guilford has had in place since 2001, freezes elderly residents’ taxes at a certain rate based on their income and length of residence in town. The original ordinance creating the system set a cap of $360,000 for the amount of taxes that can be frozen under the guidelines.

But with the property revaluation this year in which assessed values rose by an average 30 percent, taxes for participants in the relief program exceeded the $360,000 cap.

About 675 people are enrolled in the program, which breaks participants into three tiers of relief. Those who lost their status earlier this year were in the highest income tier.

After the problems arose this year, town officials decided to amend the ordinance that governs the program to raise the cap for this year and reinstate the participants, which the selectmen unanimously agreed to Monday.

Selectman Joseph Mazza said at the meeting that the change will only affect the program for this year, and the Elderly Tax Stabilization Committee will need to meet to come up with a long-term fix, which could include increasing or eliminating the cap.

As part of the process for amending an ordinance, the Board of Selectmen held a public hearing before voting Monday night, but no residents spoke. At previous meetings, several senior citizens expressed their distress over being removed from the program.

Most people who lost benefits previously will see a lower tax bill in January, but those who have already paid their full tax bill will receive a rebate check, Mazza said.

Balestracci has said in the past that the money to cover the extra $300,000 in lost taxes could come from several sources, including the town’s $330,000 settlement in the lawsuit against the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.

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