The Board of Finance voted unanimously to go ahead with changes to the Simsbury Senior Tax Relief program, increasing the available tax credits by $67,950 in the hope of drawing more senior households in to participate in the program.
Eight weeks ago the Simsbury Senior Tax Relief Subcommittee was formed for the sole purpose of re-evaluating the present tax relief system and seeing what could be done to assist Simsbury seniors even more. "It was really important that we did something this year," said Deputy First Selectman John Hampton. "This is a culmination of eight weeks' work."
"Simsbury has a proud tradition of being a multi-generational municipality, and if we want to maintain that tradition we need to look at "elderly and disabled" tax relief," said Moira Wertheimer, a member of the Subcommittee.
Two proposals were presented to the Board of Finance on Tuesday night for their vote.
Proposal number one gives seniors a distinctly larger payback in all of the earnings brackets, especially the lower earning brackets. Presently, for example, seniors who have been receiving $1,500 in the lowest bracket, $0-$16,000, will now receive $1,750, $250 more dollars.' Those who are in the $27,100 - $32,300 will receive a $400 increase, from $600 to $1000. This proposal was approved unanimously.
"It's just so important for our community to maintain our seniors living here and keep them from moving out," said Board of Finance member, Jeff Blumenthal. "They help build the community."
Bluementhal said that over recent years, as taxes have gone up, more and more seniors on fixed incomes have begun to question whether they can afford to stay in the community. "Hopefully this is allowing their taxes to be steady," he said. "The intent is to try to maintain taxes at current levels and not impact their daily lives."
Proposal number two, voted down by the Board of Finance, was to create an additional bracket to the existing program. The additional bracket would have been defined as $10-$15000 above state married limit and its benefit would be $500.
Blumenthal said the Board didn't feel this addressed where the needs lie in the senior community in Simsbury. "It was a higher bracket and the people on the Board were concerned about a expanding to a higher income bracket when you have people in town who are in a lower income bracket. Let's at this point anyway keep as much of the funding at the lower end of the bracket," he said. But Blumenthal said that the Board asked the Subcommittee to "come back after some tweaking of that proposal."
Presently, only 16 percent of eligible seniors participate in the tax relief program.
"We're hoping more will participate. We would like to increase the number of people to participate who need it," said Blumenthal. "We want our seniors to stay in our community."
"The Subcommittee intends to continue to work on developing outreach plans, as well as looking at other long range tax relief options," said Werthimer, who feels the success of the tax relief initiative can be attributed to the bipartisan effort of all members.