BET approves senior tax credit for five years
By Ken Borsuk Updated 11:00 pm EST, Tuesday, February 26, 2019
GREENWICH — The renewal of a property tax credit that helps Greenwich seniors with limited incomes has cleared a hurdle at the Board of Estimate and Taxation.
The BET unanimously approved extending the credit for five years to June 30, 2024, at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. The board had been scheduled to vote on the issue last week, but confusion over the language in the ordinance caused a delay.
“This is the finest product that we could create, and there have been very thoughtful, considerable amendments,” said Lori Contadino, executive director of the town Commission on Aging. “I think we’re in a very good place.”
The commission had pushed for the extension, and the BET thanked its members for their patience.
The tax credit is available to seniors and residents who are permanently disabled. It has a sliding scale, depending on household income. The tax credit covers households with a yearly income up to $66,000.
Greenwich has had a senior tax credit in place since 2000; the ordinance must be renewed by town government every time it expires. The newest version of the tax credit, which would go into effect July 1, would cover permanently disabled residents for the first time.
The tax credit must also be approved by the Representative Town Meeting, which is likely to consider the issue at its April meeting. The goal was to get a vote by the RTM before the tax credit expires on June 30, at the end of the fiscal year.
Initially, the Commission on Aging had pushed for a 10-year extension. However, the BET Budget Committee recommended reducing the limit to five years so the ordinance could be evaluated and changed if needed in the shorter time frame. The commission did not object to the change at Tuesday’s meeting.
Also, the Budget Committee had asked to increase the residency requirement from one year to five years. But when the BET’s Law Committee worked to revise the draft, it changed the language back to one year on the recommendation of Contadino and Town Attorney Wayne Fox.
A one-year requirement fits better with the commission’s ongoing work to have Greenwich designated as an official “age friendly community,” Contadino told the BET. An action plan is being drafted as part of the five-year process to earn the designation.
“We need to be a community that provides support and have the necessary elements within the community, external to town government, that will allow individuals to successfully age in place,” she said. If successful, Greenwich would be the first municipality in Connecticut to earn the designation.
Fox said he was concerned that a five-year requirement could lead to a legal challenge because it could violate the right to travel.
Although the tax credit had previously been approved by the Board of Selectmen, it will have to go back to the board at its Thursday morning meeting to approve the BET’s revised language so it can move forward to the RTM.
All three selectmen have expressed strong support for the tax credit, saying it would help residents stay in their homes longer. In fact, the selectmen delayed a vote for months while attempting to work out a way to make more people in town eligible for the tax credit.
Ultimately, that work could not be completed and, given the deadline looming for the credit’s expiration, the selectmen passed the credit. But it left the door open for the commission to come back before it expires again to work on new language.