On Monday night, February 10, 2014, the Board of Selectmen will hold a meeting at the Town Hall. It would be of help if you can attend this meeting in support of the Seniors in town. The major issue to those concerned, number 4 on the Agenda, will be to discuss the proposed changes to the Senior Tax Benefit that has been in effect since the 1970’s.
At issue is the Board of Finance’s proposals to make the Seniors re-apply every two years for a tax benefit that was supposed to be a permanent ordinance. This would place an undue burden on the Seniors, many of whom cannot even recall if they’ve taken their pills today, much less ask them to re-apply every two years as they get older and perhaps more frail in their memory or their physical status.
Our Seniors, who are such a small minority in town, are already paying exorbitant taxes and have been supporting other folks’ children through the school system for many years without complaint, even though they have raised their own children many years previously. The only “perk” the town allows the Seniors (who qualify) is a small percentage of a reduction in their taxes. This has helped many Seniors over the years stay in their homes after retirement, especially if they’re sick or infirm. This was the main thrust of the ordinance from the 1970’s.
However, our Seniors have no voice in the town. They can be considered “cash cows” because they pay their taxes without creating waves, they are not a force to be reckoned with. Quite a few Seniors are on fixed-incomes which have not risen over the years of their retirement. Whatever savings they had may have been diminished since 2007 and they are living month-to-month on Social Security, trying to decide to either pay for food this month or pills in addition to putting money aside for taxes.
One of the main concerns for the Seniors is that of their health and all the associated costs involved in that issue. If a Senior fails to re-apply for the tax benefit, that could mean an average uptick to their taxes of perhaps $2,000 per year. They would have to pay that $2,000 per year for the following two years until the next time they can re-apply. This is not acceptable. If a Senior can’t afford their current level of taxes now, what makes the Board of Finance think they can afford an uptick to their taxes if they fail to re-apply in time? Who’s going to address that issue? Memories fail, bodies fail. Who is going to assist these Seniors who are not capable of filling out forms every two years? Who is going to be the memory police for them?
We know the town needs to find more money to pay for various items, but does the Board of Finance need to scrape the bottom of the barrel? Does the Board need to target the most vulnerable, the most frail, the least represented, and the fewest population in town? Historically, the Seniors have just kept on paying and paying without having their voices heard above the din of other, more vocal, groups in town.
Children here in town have their parents who represent them on issues, but the Seniors have nobody. The tax benefit truly is the only “perk” that Seniors receive. According to some, Seniors are frequently neglected or forgotten, they are old, used up, ignored. There are many forms of abuse of the elderly. This current project to have the Seniors re-apply for something that is an established fact for many years is a form of abuse.
If there is a good attorney out there, does this ordinance of the past 35-plus/minus years constitute any grounds for English Common Law as established precedent? If so, please let’s hear from you.
Finally, to those who are retired and on Social Security: do you have to re-apply for Social Security every two years? Obviously not. Once applied for, it is yours for life.
The argument that the Board of Finance is using to justify this project is that there are people here in town who don’t live here anymore, yet are getting the tax break. That’s one reason why they are trying to “catch” folks by making them re-apply every two years. Is there going to be a different type of policing on people who live out of town or the state for more than 183 days? There goes your privacy regarding your travel movements or living arrangements. How will they find out if you’re not here for 183 days? How will they enforce that item?
The Board of Finance from the 1970’s were more enlightened in regards to the elderly in town. Back then they planned for the future of the Seniors in town once they retired. A vital part of any town are the children and, yes, the Seniors. By depriving one group at the potential cost benefit to the other is deceptive, dishonest, and backward-thinking. We should be moving ahead by protecting our Seniors in their most vulnerable years, not trying to milk them by placing undue burdens on them. If the town would learn to live within the budget we already have instead of trying to find new money sources, we’d all be better off in the future.
If this project ever comes to a town referendum, please vote to keep the original ordinance created in the 1970’s. Vote against Senior re-applying, please!
By Elaine Kokoska, Redding, CT