Cheshire expands property tax relief scheme

CHESHIRE – With inflation at high levels for decades and prices continuing to rise, more and more residents are worried about their household bottom line.

This is especially true for those on a fixed income, who cannot afford to dramatically increase their earning potential.

Each year, the City of Cheshire provides property tax relief to elderly residents of the community. At its October 11 business meeting, the City Council unanimously passed a motion to expand the scheme in the hope the measure will help Cheshire’s older people – typically those aged 65 and over – who may face financial difficulties.

The State of Connecticut allows and sometimes requires local governments to implement programs to alleviate financial pressures arising from tax obligations. The Cheshire program is an example.

The Board’s Budget Committee began reviewing these changes in January. Council Member David Borowy, in moving the motion, said he met several times, “looking for ways to show that we were serious about improving and expanding our tax credit for old people. The citizens of the city wanted him. As a committee, we supported that. It’s a big problem.

Some measures, such as the property tax freeze, have been deemed “unaffordable”. After consideration, the Committee elected to raise the income limits for participation in the program.

Instead of income levels being capped at $57,200 for single filers and $61,200 for couples, the program’s new upper limits have been set at $74,700 and $80,000, respectively. The tax credits in these brackets are $250 for single filers and $300 for eligible joint filers.

The reason for bringing the motion now and not during spring budget considerations, according to Borowy, is so people can start submitting applications for the program in February of next year. The Council hopes that those who qualify will benefit.

Cheshire’s chief financial officer, James Jaskot, described the scheme as easy to get into. “If you file or even if you don’t file a tax return, it’s basically bringing your documents, whatever you get for earned income or unearned income. (Either) a copy of your tax return or, if you don’t file it, your Social Security 1099 would suffice. Our staff are great at working with people to get the right documentation.

Council Member David Veleber inquired about the potential budgetary impact of the changes.

City Manager Sean Kimball admitted the full picture of the budget effect remains to be seen, but felt “comfortable” with a projected amount of $140,000.

“We don’t have a hard number for how many people might fall into that income bracket,” he said, “but as we discussed, we applied a logic based on the number of people who were currently in the program and how much we expanded it, and then proportionally increase the number of people we expect to reach.

Council member Sylvia Nichols says the program shows respect for the city’s elders.

“As a member of the seniors’ community,” she said, “I’m going to speak on behalf of many of my friends and myself and say it’s very refreshing to see that no one is simply says, “Well, at your age, you should expect to pay like everyone else. It’s very nice for our community to be able to feel that someone is listening to some of the issues that some of us are having.

Council Member Don Walsh also endorsed the approval of the motion, saying, “As our Budget (Committee) Chair said, this is something many of our constituents have asked all of us: what are we going to do to help those on fixed incomes to stay in our city?

“We don’t want to make this town so expensive that we kick people out, especially those who helped make this town what it is today,” he said. “I hope (this helps) a lot of people who would otherwise have to find other places to live or other ways to pay their taxes to stay here.”

As Borowy said, “It’s something that we strongly feel is a message to send to our senior citizens in the city that we invite you to stay here as long as you can and that we want to help you.”

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