The Elder Services Task Force presented a proposal for a senior property tax exemption to the Board of Selectmen last week. The Jan. 22 presentation was lead by Chairman of the Elder Services Task Force Don Robb, and member of the task force, Nancy Mulvey. 

A warrant article for the tax exemption will be submitted for annual Town Meeting this spring. The warrant will seek approval for a Home Rule Petition to be sent to the state Legislature for consideration to approve a senior tax exemption. The Elder Services Task Force began meeting about one year ago, and since then they have focused on four key areas where seniors need assistance: housing, transportation, tax relief and programming. 

Selectmen approved a $421 tax increase this year for the average single family, and it was no secret that seniors were hit hard by the tax hike. 

“The first area that we really wanted to explore in depth was tax relief,” Robb said. “This is a proposal to provide tax exemption for certain seniors in the town."

"This is designed particularly for people who have lived in the town of Andover for 10 years at least," Robb added. "We are looking to retain residents who are long-term residents of the town who would like to remain in the town, but find it difficult to deal with the kinds of tax increases that we just did of 4.6 percent. There is a population of seniors in town that need some help."

According to Robb, the task force modeled much of the exemption after the town of Reading's program that was implemented over the past year. 

Due to state circuit breaker information from 2014, the latest information available, and information from Reading's exemption, the task force believes about 150 people would benefit from the exemption. Based on those numbers the task force believes the program would cost the town about $150,000, costing an additional $12.27 per taxpayer. 

Robb also said that, in the same model, taxpayers would pay $6,700 toward Andover schools alone. 

Robb and Mulvey's proposal aimed to provide tax exemption for a certain group of seniors in town. The exemption would be available to any senior who qualified and received the state circuit breaker for the prior year. As a result, all of the state qualifications would apply to the town-specific exemption. Only seniors who are 65 and older would be eligible, and if the home is co-filed, one owner must be over 65 and the other must be at least 60.

The exemption also takes into account income, and would only apply to persons making less than $57,000 annually, a two person household bringing in less than $86,000, and the head of house hold can only make a maximum up $72,000.

Another qualification was added by the task force in addition to those of the state however. A person's home must be appraised at $747,000 or less in order to be eligible, and the homeowner must have owned a home in Andover for at least 10 years.  

The exemption would cover as much as 100 percent of the state senior circuit breaker income tax credit, and no less than 50 percent. The percentage would be determined by selectmen annually.

"It was a point of discussion early on for the Task Force that it seemed unfair to ask the taxpayers in general to pick up the taxes of people who are certainly in a position to pay those taxes," Robb said. "This does not apply to every senior in town. There is a means test that you have to be eligible and have filed for the senior circuit breaker in your state income tax." 

"I think this is a great idea and I thank you for all of your work on it," said Selectman Laura Gregory. "I look forward to hearing more going forward."

I support the concept as well," agreed Selectman Bob Landry. "I think our seniors need some tax relief."

Follow Kelsey Bode on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode.

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