By Paul Fassbender
A question on the May 4 town election ballot asks
voters to adopt a new property tax exemption based on a new state law created for Westford.
Seniors who depend primarily on Social Security have seen their income rise at an average of about 1.3 percent for at least the last 12 years.
During that period, their costs, including Westford property tax, have increased at several times that rate. Older low-income seniors who retired years ago on fixed incomes and wish to continue living in
their homes are increasingly at financial risk.
This exemption creates a small fund to provide extra help to the most vulnerable seniors who have qualified for the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit and other means-tested exemptions, and are still paying more than 10 percent of their income for property tax.
It targets limited funds to those who need them most.
In January, State Representative James Arciero and State Senator Edward Kennedy announced that Governor Baker has signed House Bill 4469, an Act Authorizing the town of Westford to Establish a Means-Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption.
The measure was proposed by Westford’s Senior, Low-income, Disabled Tax Relief Committee (SLIDTR Committee) and the Select Board in order to give some low-income seniors on fixed income additional property tax relief.
It was passed by Westford Town Meeting in October 2018 and filed as a home rule petition in the Massachusetts legislature. New state law had to be created to enable Westford to implement this exemption.
“There now remains one more step before the
adoption of this measure by the Town—it must be approved at the upcoming election in
May.” said Andrea Peraner-Sweet, Chair of the Westford Select Board.
Who is eligible?
The exemption will apply to residents of Westford who:
Are 65 years of age or older
Occupy the property as their primary residence
Have lived in town for at least 10 years
Pay over 10 percent of their income in property tax
Have qualified for other means-tested exemptions
Meet income and asset requirements.
Several other provisions provide a limit on home value and limit exemptions to not
exceed 50 percent of any individual’s assessed taxes.
Shall Westford adopt a Means-tested Senior Property Tax Exemption?
The money to pay for this benefit as proposed, will be taken out of the Town’s OverlayAccount. Overlay is an amount of money raised each year within the levy limit that is used to provide for property tax abatements and exemptions. This method of funding
does not require a tax shift or tax increase of any kind.
The legislation is written to allow a trial period of three years for this exemption. This will permit town officials to evaluate the success of the program and make adjustments if necessary.
The Westford Board of Assessors will administer the program if accepted by the town, as it does for other real estate tax abatement programs under Chapter 59 of the general laws of the Commonwealth.
Any questions feel free to call Annette, Outreach Coordinator at 978-399-2326 or
Christine Collins, Tax Collector’s Office at 978-399-2526.