Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
After years of tweaking, Vernon council OKs new tax relief program

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
April 11, 2006

VERNON - The Town Council has given its approval to a two-year pilot program aimed at providing tax relief for the elderly and disabled citizens.

The council voted 10-1 to green-light the program, which was proposed by Mayor Ellen L. Marmer after several years of discussions, spanning a few mayoral administrations.

The program would provide relief to disabled citizens and residents 65 and older who meet to income guidelines.

Saying he would like to change the age and salary parameters of the program, Republican Councilman Daniel E. Anderson voted against the plan.

The new program, which would supplement the state's "circuit breaker" program, would be available to residents 65 and older who make $27,700 or less per year.

Under a formula based on income and length of residency, eligible residents could see their assessments reduced by as little as $1,500 or as much as $10,000.

To be eligible, a resident must have lived in their home for one year as of Dec. 31, 2005, and their maximum property assessment can't be more than $200,000, Town Assessor David Wheeler told the Town Council last week.

Wheeler said the maximum assessment was developed with the upcoming revaluation in mind.

Depending on income and the length of residency, some townspeople could save as much as $357.90 on their property taxes.

Residents qualifying in the lowest bracket could save $53.69 on their property taxes.

Wheeler estimated that about 289 households would be eligible for the program.

The cost to run the program has been estimated to be as high as $60,000, which has been factored into revenue projections for the proposed $71.94 million 2006-07 budget.

To participate in the program next fiscal year, residents need to contact the town assessor's office by May 15, Wheeler said Tuesday.

The creation of a senior citizen tax relief program has been one of Marmer's priorities. "A lot of the individuals who will be eligible are single households, particularly women, women who didn't work much and didn't pay into Social Security," Marmer said. "In two years, we certainly may tweak it if we need to."

Republican Jason L. McCoy proposed setting aside funds from the town's fund-balance to assure that the program would be paid for during the next two years.

But Finance Officer James M. Luddecke told him that he wouldn't know how to spend the appropriation because the cost of the tax relief program affects the revenue side of the budget.

McCoy's amendment was defeated in an 8 to 2 vote, with McCoy and Anderson voting in favor of the ammendment and Republican Mark S. Etre abstaining.

Several Town Council members said they thought the new program was a good first step for the town.

Democrat Marie A. Herbst said the concept of senior citizen tax relief has been discussed since Republican Joseph Grabinski was in the mayor's office during the late 1990s.
"It is a small step, there is no question," Herbst said. "I think there's enough checks and balances in place right now that will help this program move along."

But Anderson said he would have liked to have seen the minimum age of the program increased and the income requirements raised above $27,700 to allow more people to sign up for the program.

"That was my goal here," Anderson said. "When you are in your 70s, you have been retired a lot longer."

©Journal Inquirer 2006