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Norwalk council taking on senior tax relief

Norwalk Tax Assessor Michael Stewart speaks about the revaluation recently, the name of the company doing it – Vision Government Solutions – projected on his face.

Updated 3 a.m., information from minutes

NORWALK, Conn. – It’s worth taking a look at, Norwalk council members say – maybe there is a way to ease the burden on Norwalk’s oldest taxpayers.

A discussion on senior tax relief is on the agenda for Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting.

“Cities are often judged by how they treat their youngest and oldest residents; thus, the need to adequately fund education and to minimize the burden borne by our senior residents. I think it’s important to do a comprehensive review of the tax relief program periodically, but especially on the heels of a revaluation,” said Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) in an email.

Article VII of the city’s codebook describes the tax deferral program for seniors and disabled homeowners and is dated April 9, 2002. It specifies a maximum $2,500 tax deferral, which becomes a lien against the property. Interest is charged to the lien based on the interest the city is paying on its bonds.

Kimmel said it should be reviewed every few years to see if adjustments are needed.

“We need to review the income eligibility requirements and the amount of the property tax reductions. A variety of factors need to be discussed; for instance, the overall economic situation, any changes in the state senior tax relief program, and what the city might be able to afford. The process of changing the program, if I remember correctly, is not simple, and may require action from both the ordinance committee of the council, as well as the BET. It is too late in the year for us to have an impact on the 14-15 operating budget, but there is some possibility that we will change the program in time for the 15-16 budget,” he wrote.

Kimmel put it on the agenda in response to comments made at the last meeting by Councilman David Watts, according to meeting minutes. Watts said he was tired of seniors talking about having to leave because of the high property taxes, the minutes say. Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said the formula was tweaked three years ago by increasing the income limits and the benefits by about $200, the minutes say. Tax Assessor Michael Stewart said there were about 1,200 to 1,300 residents currently in the program, according to the minutes.

The current tax referral is a “token,” Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said.

“I would love to see some type of relief for our seniors, but it has to be meaningful. I don’t know what that would do with the overall picture,” Petrini said.

He would like to see a demographic breakdown for Norwalk, he said.

Petrini said he has a soft spot for seniors, as both his parents, who are in their 80’s, continue to live in Norwalk, where they were born. His mother-in-law is the same age, and has lived here for more than 30 years.

“I know how hard it is for them to make ends meet,” he said. “But I would like to see just what the burden could be on the backs of everybody else. I haven’t seen any of those numbers yet. I mean, if it’s something that could be palatable I would go for it, but if it’s going to create an undue burden on the younger families that are facing so much pressure from everywhere, I would have to take that into consideration, how that would play out for everyone.”

His late uncle lived in Wilton, he said. The town froze taxes for seniors at a certain age, he said. When his uncle passed away he inherited the house, and saw the tax bill go from the $4,000 range to almost $7,000, he said.

“Can we do something like that here? I don’t know. Not until we find out what exactly what picture we are talking about,” he said. “Is there going to be a tax increase? How much it’s going to be or maybe none at all. I don’t know. It seems likely that they’re might be an increase, but I’ve also heard … the conveyance revenues and the building department revenues might help to offset some of this, so I don’t know what some of those numbers are.”

Comments

7 responses to “Norwalk council taking on senior tax relief”

  1. More of the Same

    Taxes aren’t the problem. Spending is.

  2. Casey Smith

    Wilton’s freezing of the taxes for the seniors is a good idea, particularly since seniors who have lived in a town for many years have paid and paid and paid into the education system. Wilton allocated a percentage somewhere in the high sixties, low seventies to education. The tricky part is that when the elderly resident dies, the heirs need to be prepared for the changes in the tax amount.

  3. longtime resident

    Seniors in Norwalk desperately need relief. I have lived here, owned three homes, and paid taxes for 35 years.

    I am retiring soon and will probably leave the city. There is no way that I can afford to pay these tax rates. I suspect that there are many others in the same position.

  4. Piberman

    Discussing senior tax relief is long standing “feel good” politics for City politicians who lack the courage to restrain City spending. A Council that lacks the incentive to correct the NEON tragedy could hardly be expected to help seniors being driven out of town. When it comes to spending the Council has no credibility. Everyone knows the Council will once again raise spending and taxes to make sure Norwalk pays the highest salaries of any city in the state.

  5. Steve Serasis

    Some of you commenting are missing the point. Stop talking politics, and start thinking about our seniors first. I’ve been taking care of my Dad for seven years. Medical expenses have made it difficult to pay taxes on time, even though there is a modest amount of income coming in. For someone that has paid taxes in Norwalk since the early 60’s, and never received any assistance over the many years, there needs to be a side of the city that understand that sometimes our life-long positive contributors to society that are now seniors need a helping hand. I’ve spent plenty of money, my own, to upkeep Dad’s house and take care of him. With no complaints, I love him. However, when you have multiple aliments (cancer alone twice this year)and full blown alzheimer’s for almost seven years, our healthcare in this country dismantles your savings. Hence city taxes, amongst other things are late. If a senior is trying to pay under these conditions, the city needs to be compassionate, and have a program that takes “EVERYTHING” into account, not just parameters that are put into place without a single thought as to what the struggle is. All the money in the world sometimes can’t help when you get really sick in our beloved country…we need to look out for our seniors, and provide a relief program that really understands the problem, handle it with intelligent compassion, and dignity.

  6. amen to Steve Serasis’s comments…

  7. Piberman

    If all the seniors who have been paying property taxes for several decades or more sought relief then maybe, and its a big if, our City’s politicans might notice. Requests for senior tax relief have been made and ignored by our “compassionate” City politicans. But they do love our employees. Even when most live outside the City presumably to avoid high taxes.

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