FAIRFIELD, Conn. – More of Fairfield’s senior citizens and disabled residents might qualify for property tax credits next year, and some could be eligible for a more generous tax relief program.
“The intent was this will be a long-term solution to try to address concerns where taxpayers felt they had to leave the town of Fairfield because they couldn’t afford the tax,” said Tom McCarthy, chair of the Representative Town Meeting’s Senior and Disabled Tax Relief Subcommittee.
The subcommittee suggested a plan to allow more seniors to qualify for tax credits. Tax credits are available to Fairfield residents over 65 years old with an annual income of less than $60,900, with assets totaling less than $500,000. The proposed change would raise those limits to $70,000 for income and $650,000 for personal assets.
The group also proposed making the benefit simpler by removing the current tiered system for assigning credits. The town offers a flat rate for a range of income levels, with different amounts for single and married seniors. The committee suggests getting rid of the difference between singles and couples, and changing the credit’s amount to a percentage of taxes.
“These changes were put out there to address specific concerns that we’ve heard over a six-month period from people,” McCarthy said.
Another proposed change is the introduction of a new tax deferral program. Residents over 75 years old would be able to defer up to half their annual tax bills for an unlimited time. Those taxes would be paid with interest as a lien on the deed if the resident decides to sell the house.
In all the program would make about 300 more residents eligible for the senior tax relief program, an increase of about 12 percent, McCarthy said. Currently, about 62 percent of the residents eligible for the program take advantage of it.
First Selectman Michael Tetreau told the RTM Monday that he estimates the new program to cost the town about a 0.75 percent tax increase next summer to cover the new program. But he noted that as seniors sell their homes and the deferred taxes are paid, the program would recover years in the future.
No matter how many seniors sign up for the program, the town’s laws say that the program can’t cost more than 4 percent of the total grand list to the town. The current limit is about $9 million, and “we’ve never come close to the limit,” said subcommittee member Carolyn Richmond.
The full Representative Town Meeting will vote on the proposed changes at its January meeting.