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City Council OKs senior tax deferral program

By Stephen Betts | Oct 14, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts

Rockland — The Rockland City Council approved a property tax deferral program that councilors said would help few people, but was the "best tool" available to municipalities.

The Council voted 5-0 at its Oct. 14 meeting to give final approval to the deferral program sponsored by Councilor Nate Davis.

The tax deferral for senior citizens is based on a state law for people 70 years or older, whose income is no more than three times the federal poverty level. That would be around $38,000 in annual income to qualify for the deferral. Persons who fit this tax deferral must also have lived in their home for at least 10 years.

The deferred taxes would be paid when the property owner sells their property, dies or stops living in their current residence. The city would have a lien on the property to recoup the deferred taxes.

Davis said even if the program helps a few people, it would be a good thing.

Councilor Ben Dorr said it was unfortunate the city had to use such a poor tool to help people keep their homes, but it was a worthwhile experiment.

The city's economic and community development director estimated that up to 634 households might qualify for assistance, and if all those people participated, the cost would be $1.8 million annually. Davis pointed out again, however, the town of Wells has the same program and no one has taken advantage of it.

Councilor Valli Geiger said there are many people in the South End who are in distress because of the high property tax bills, increased by the revaluation. Geiger said if she wins election to the Maine House, she would work for other forms of relief such as increasing the homestead tax exemption — which currently reduces valuations of a person's primary home by $25,000 — as well as looking at a cap on property taxes for older homeowners who meet a certain income guideline.

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Comments (4)
Posted by: George Terrien | Oct 15, 2020 11:52

Though with little standing (however much our real estate taxes increased this year), I express gratitude to the members of our Council for having done what they could, at least as a first step. I only regret the attitude behind those naysayers who, apparently, would prefer that our City do nothing.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 15, 2020 10:29

This provides options for those whom have a limited income and a desire to stay where they are for the rest of their days.  I may never have to use it, yet know people who will.  Sincere thanks to the city council for voting unanimously on this one and Councilor Davis for bringing it forward.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Oct 15, 2020 10:28

The reason the town of Wells has no takers for this program, is senior citizens are not stupid. A lien is a lien by any program name you give it. This program is as poor a financial choice as a reverse mortgage. Seniors would rather sell their homes than face debt themselves or pass the debt onto their heirs.

-Phyllis Merriam

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Oct 15, 2020 09:47

I would agree with councilor Dorr who said: " it is unfortunate the City had to use such a poor tool to help people keep their homes".  If this is the best the State can come up with it ain't much.  With the total lack of anything useful coming from Augusta or Washington, it would seem more beneficial to throw out the entire bunch and start over.

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