WINCHESTER - As Town Meeting gets set to reconvene tonight, last week it passed two articles relating to tax deferrals and tax relief.
Town Meeting passed this article to help seniors stay in their homes. It includes five sections, as follows:
• Section 1: This allows an exemption from the property tax in “an amount to be set annually by the Select Board.”
• Section 2: This allows the Board of Assessors to deny a senior an application if “it finds that the applicant has excessive assets that place the applicant outside of the intended recipients of the senior exemption established pursuant to this act.” It also outlines how the applicant can qualify for the tax deferral: by qualifying for the state’s senior circuit breaker income tax credit, being age 65 or older, owning a home, living in the home for at least 10 consecutive years, having the home’s assessed value not be greater than the prior year’s maximum assessed value for qualification for the circuit breaker income tax credit, and receiving approval from the Board of Assessors.
Section 3: This allows the Select Board to set the exemption amount in the range of 50-200 percent, inclusive, of the amount of the circuit breaker income tax credit. The total amount exempted by this act “shall be allocated proportionally within the tax levy on all residential taxpayers.”
Section 4: This states the applicant must file an application each year they seek to receive an exemption.
Section 5: This states no exemption can be granted until the Department of Revenue certifies a residential tax rate for the applicable tax year.
Select Board member Michael Bettencourt, speaking on behalf of the article, said as of 2016 that 16 percent of residents were age 65 or older. He also said the median price for a single-family home exceeded $1M in 2017.
When seniors sell their homes, whether to downsize or because they can’t afford to live there, it opens up the town to receive more families and more young children to educate. A tax relief program would help seniors remain in the “family” home thereby helping keep the town’s school enrollment numbers from growing.
The Finance Committee recommended favorable action. Chair Aaron Kutylo said the article wouldn’t cause the town to lose revenue; instead, it shifts the burden to other taxpayers. He said 300 residents could take advantage of the tax relief program. It would shift $330,000 onto other residents.
Town Meeting passed the article unanimously.
Town Meeting approved this article to adjust the current eligibility limits for property tax deferrals. The vote increased the “gross receipts that senior citizens may have in the prior calendar year to be eligible to defer property taxes under MGL Ch. 59, Sec. 5, Clause 41A from $53,000-$60,000.”
Select Board member Susan Verdicchio, speaking on behalf of the article, said the town first signed on to the program back in 1991 and it last increased the eligibility back in 2013 (from $49,000-$53,000). Like the previous article, eligible applicants must be over 65 years old; however, instead of being a 10-year resident of Winchester, they must be a 10-year resident of Massachusetts.
Currently, Verdicchio said 13 property owners are participating, but new applicants are being considered now.
The Finance Committee recommended favorable action. Kutylo called it a deferral, adding it won’t produce a loss of revenue.
Town Meeting unanimously approved the article.