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Rockland Council rejects basic income pilot project

By Stephen Betts | Aug 11, 2020

Rockland — The Rockland City narrowly rejected a proposed basic income pilot program Monday night.

The council postponed a vote on a senior property tax relief program until it receives more information on the potential financial impact.

The council voted 3-2 Aug. 10 against the proposal by Councilor Nate Davis to provide up to $100 per month for as many as 100 Rockland residents who seek assistance. The aid would be on a first-come, first-served basis. If the 100 is reached and there are multiple requests for aid at the same time, a random drawing would be held to determine who gets the aid.

The cost of the program in a year would be up to $120,000, plus incidental costs such as postage and printing of postcards that would be used to participate in the program. There would also be staff time involved in overseeing the program.

Davis noted the council approved a $200,000 loan program for businesses without concern about spending the money.

He said the $100 could be used by a single mother for child care or an elderly couple who cannot afford to pay their property taxes. He said he preferred giving the money directly rather than through a social service agency, because the recipients would know their needs better.

Councilor Ed Glaser said the biggest problem he has with the proposal was that the money would come from property taxes which funds the city, but is not based on the ability to pay. He said if there was another source such as a local option sales tax, he might consider supporting the measure.

Councilor Valli Geiger also said she would vote against it because the property tax is the source of revenue for the proposed program. She said what was needed was a progressive income tax by the government or financial support such as the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits.

Mayor Lisa Westkaemper voted against the proposal but did not speak on the issue. Councilor Ben Dorr voted for the program.

The council also voted 5-0 to postpone until Sept. 14, a property tax deferral plan for seniors.

The tax deferral for senior citizens is based on a state law which for people 70 years or older whose income is not more than three times the federal poverty level. That would be about a cap of about $38,000 in annual income to qualify for the deferral.

The deferred taxes would be paid when the property owner sold their property, died or stopped living in the residence. The city would have a lien on the property to recoup the deferred taxes.

Davis said the estimate compiled by city economic and community development director was that up to 634 households might qualify for the assistance and if all of those people participated, the cost would be $1.8 million annually. He said, however, the town of Wells has the same program and no one has taken advantage of it.

One concern about the program was that any lien the city had on properties for deferred payments would be subordinate to other liens such as mortgages

Davis pointed out the city could cancel the program if it cost the city too much.

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Comments (3)
Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Aug 12, 2020 08:06

I want to say, clearly that I appreciate Nathan Davis putting so much thought and care into figuring out a proposal to present to council that would be supportive of the people in need. Perhaps something else will come of this that would be a workable a win-win. That seemed to be part of the council meeting's discussion I attended for 3 hrs. via zoom the other night.Thank you, Nate for your heart felt concern.

I'm still thinking that NASA's budget needs to be used to help people (on the ground) and hold off sending up anything.... until the people down here are taken care of properly. Does anyone else think this is a good idea? Have sent out this idea to many Congress people in many states, including our President. Then perhaps "trickle down"  to all cities & states in need will work! Our states cannot afford what Trump has planned $400. a month and then each state pays $100. What a joke,  out of touch with reality, an insult truly!  Does "he" want all states to go bankrupt? duh.........We need NASA's budgeted money.......for the people. Space can wait.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Aug 11, 2020 12:46

Please, seriously consider this:

"The council also voted 5-0 to postpone until Sept. 14, a property tax deferral plan for seniors."  

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 11, 2020 11:28

I thought that was a good proposal but obviously the funding of the budget is more important than older taxpayers. My property shares a driveway with a house that is in terrible condition. I don't feel as though my taxes should go up until the landlord fixes this blight.. The screen door, minus windows and screens has been half open for over a year now. Where is the code office?  The vinyl siding is cracked and falling off, the birds are nesting in the eaves and the windows and screens are broken out and covered with rags. I've been in this house for thirty years and I don't enjoy living here and nobody will pay that much to buy me out. Not only that at 72 years old I dont want to start over. The  City will get what I paid last year until they clean up this mess I have to live beside. Code office ...Do your job.



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