Programs available to ease tax burden for seniors

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To the Editor:

Dear senior citizens of Tisbury, of which I am one, I was remiss in not speaking up at our recent town meeting to respond to the concerns of some of our senior citizens who were concerned with the prospect of a raise in their property taxes if the warrant article for the new Tisbury Elementary School passed. The article passed, but the voters defeated the ballot question to fund the project at the polls. Presumably those voting in the negative included a substantial number of senior citizens.

Perhaps if they were aware of the several programs (created through state legislation) whereby a senior may receive an abatement of property taxes (or an equivalent), they might have voted in favor of funding the school project. One of those persons stated at town meeting that his taxes would go up about $1,000 a year and that the total effect would be about $20,000 over the life of the bond to fund the project (i.e. 20 years). Coincidentally, one of the abatement programs provides an abatement of exactly $1,000 a year to qualified applicants. Qualifications include proof of income and assets falling into the category of “low to moderate,” being a senior citizen (over 65), meeting a residency test, and a limitation on the assessed value of the taxpayer’s real estate.

This program is administered by our local assessors, who I am sure will provide the necessary forms and assistance for those interested in this program. A second program administered by the assessors’ office is a senior tax deferral program, where if you qualify, you are allowed to postpone paying your property taxes until your house is sold or conveyed.

A third program allows low and moderate-income seniors to exchange services while earning a maximum of $1,045 for a single taxpayer a year, and a two-person household of $1,330 annually. These programs are usually administered through Councils on Aging, senior centers, or similar organization within a town. For the moment Tisbury does not have such a program, but I suspect with a little encouragement to our selectmen, there is the possibility of creating such a program.

A fourth program, called the “State Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit,” currently allows a credit of up to $1,070 a year. To claim this credit, a taxpayer is required to file a schedule with their state income tax return and, again, must meet certain income and property value requirements.

Bottom line is that there is relief out there that could assist our senior citizens in eliminating or minimizing the pain of the cost of a new school. I will be diligent next time the question comes up to attempt to educate our senior citizens. And it will most certainly come up again, because of the many Tisbury residents who worked so hard to get us a new school, and I am sure will continue until it becomes a reality. While I respect the opinion of those who opposed the school, a new school is a necessity and not a luxury. I am sure it will pass next time around, but, most likely, at a higher cost.

Howard Miller
Tisbury