To the Editor:
A state enabled program to allow seniors to defer their local real estate taxes after they reach age 65 is being expanded in several communities in an effort to make it easier for seniors to participate. The object of this effort is to allow seniors to defer paying their real estate taxes during their elderly years and have the taxes accumulate as a lien on the property in favor of the city or town to be paid off when the owner either dies or sells the house.It is not an exemption.
While the program was designed to encourage older residents to remain in their homes after reaching retirement age, most eligible seniors did not participate either because their home exceeded the limits or the established interest rate was too high. The local cities and towns were free to establish their own interest rate but the annual income limit for a married couple could not exceed $58,000. Milton sets its limits at $56,154, but the interest rate is 8%. Because of that, there are only four households in the entire town of Milton that participate in the program.
Milton had 453 residents that qualified for the “Circuit Breaker Tax Credit” in 2018. [This] is a state program that grants a credit to seniors whose local real estate tax exceeds 10% of their income.The credit is only available to those who had an income of less than $88,000 for married couples so that is a good indication that there are many in the town whom are potentially eligible for the deferral. On the state level there has been a movement to allow the local communities to expand the tax deferral income limit to match the circuit breaker limit.
This year the Town of Walpole increased its income limit to $84,000, and reduced its interest rate on the deferred tax to 4%. Brookline increased its income limit to $88,000 and reduced its income limit to 3%. Cambridge increased the income limit to $88,000 and Newton increased its income limit to $86,000. Somerville’s income limit is $86,000 and the interest rate was also reduced. Lexington has a limit of $75,000 and the interest rate is 2.5%. Wellesley dropped their interest rate to 1.79% and Weston went a step further by increasing their income limit to $86,000 and lowered the age of eligibility to 60.
Coincidentally and unrelated to the issue at hand, it could also be noted that these towns have some of the best school systems in the Commonwealth.
This year a proposal should be made to our Town Meeting to follow the lead of these other municipalities and increase the income limits for eligibility while at the same time, reducing the interest rate.We could easily follow the example of Walpole, which is a town of similar size as Milton — income limits of $84,000 and interest at 4%.
Seniors add much to our town. Many of our seniors were born here, were educated here and have lived here their entire life. It would be more than a meaningful gesture of respect to make it easier financially and it would cost the town nothing.
–Thomas W. Stanton