James Arciero. COURTESY PHOTO

Enacted Legislation will Provide Additional Benefits for Disabled Westford Residents

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State Rep. James Arciero announced on Nov. 14 that Governor Charlie Baker has signed legislation passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate for the Town of Westford.  The legislation, House Bill 4660: An Act Relative to a Real Property Exemption for Disabled Persons in the Town of Westford, was requested by the citizens of Westford acting at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.  The bill is now Chapter 292 of the Acts of 2018.

“I am glad to have been able to fulfill the request of the citizens of Westford to pass legislation to allowe disabled persons to access certain real property tax exemptions which currently apply to our veterans and senior citizens,” said Arciero who shepherded the bill through the legislative process on behalf of the town.  “I applaud the effort of the members of the SLIDTR Committee in drafting this legislation and their successful push to have it passed by Westford Town Meeting,”

SLIDTR stands for Senior, Low-income, Disabled Tax Relief.

The home rule petition, which is a special act by the legislature and state government to change the provisions of state law for a specific community in the Commonwealth, was the final recommendation of the Westford Senior, Low-income, Disabled Tax Relief Committee formed by the town to study ways of easing the burden of real estate taxes on certain segments of the Westford community.

The new law specifically will allow the town of Westford to offer so-called Chapter 59 tax exemptions to disabled persons who are under the age of 70 and have lived in town for 10 years. The definition of disabled is determined by an individual receiving a determination of disability from the U.S. Social Security Administration. The maximum amount of the exemption will be $500.

The final town warrant article, as endorsed by Town Meeting, was the product of the report by the SLIDTR Committee which was formed at the 2017 annual Westford Town Meeting to review potential tax relief for Westford residents facing challenges with paying their real estate taxes.

As part of the review of the matter by the SLIDTR Committee, they were invited by Arciero to meet with the Legislature’s Revenue Committee, chaired by state Rep. Jay Kaufman of Lexington and members of the committee’s legal and research staff.  This critical meeting was helpful in determining what types of property tax relief legislation were filed and pending before the legislature, the prospects of their passage, and a review of similar efforts being put forth by other Massachusetts cities and towns to address this issue through special legislation. The SLIDTR Committee members present at the Revenue Committee meeting were Chairman Thomas Spuhler, Vice Chairman Annette Cerullo, Paul Fassbender and Donald Costley.  Other members of the committee included Westford Finance Director Dan O’Donnell, Westford Tax Collector Christine Collins, Henry A. McDowell, Heather Fitzpatrick and Westford Principal Assessor Paul Plouffe.

“I know that this special legislation will give the town of Westford and its citizens another option in assisting those disabled persons who are having difficulty paying their property taxes, allowing them to stay in their homes and in our town,” said Arciero.