BERLIN - A Town Council subcommittee is looking to update some local ordinances, including the senior citizens property tax deferral program.
The free program provides a deferral of any tax-rate changes for anyone who owns and lives in property in town, is at least 70 years old, and applies between Feb. 1 and May 15.
The program works by having a participant pay taxes at whatever the tax rate was before their taxes were frozen, but not any increase in taxes.
For example, under the recently passed budget, a person in the program would pay at the 31.61-mill tax rate, not the new 32.50-mill tax rate.
Applicants cannot make more than $29,800 a year if single or $36,500 if married. As long as one person in the marriage is over 70, the couple is eligible for the program. Participants must reapply each year.
The deferral comes by way of a lien against the applicant’s property, said Kevin Delaney, town finance director. The deferred taxes are to be paid upon death of last eligible taxpayer or when home is sold. It is administered by the Assessor’s Office and Tax Collector’s Office. It cannot be used on rental property.
No one is now enrolled in the program, said Delaney. Town Manager Jack Healy said no one applies because of the lien.
The subcommittee discussed making the program a straight freeze and removing the lien.
The subcommittee also discussed updating the income level requirements. The policy was adopted in 2008, Delaney said.
The issue of freezing taxes for seniors was raised several times during the recent budget process by the Board of Finance and residents.
If the town were to simply freeze the taxes, Healy said, it would lose $15,000 to $30,000 a year if 100 people signed up for the program.
The subcommittee took no action other than to tell Corporation Counsel Jeff Donofrio to draft changes to the ordinance. A public hearing will follow once the changes are proposed.
Among others, the subcommittee discussed the following changes to ordinances:
n Removing a restriction for those who are seeking a permit, license or certificate from the town because of delinquent taxes, when they are incurred by a tenant of, or person leasing from, a property owner.
n Lowering the cost of a peddler and solicitor permit from $200, as some vendors using the permit don’t make that much in sales.
n Preventing trucks from idling, which residents have complained about, on Commerce Street at all hours of the night. Climate Engineering Truck and Trailer Refrigeration is at 86 Commerce St. and installs and repairs equipment on trucks, said Zoning Enforcement Officer Maureen Giuisti.
n Requiring property owners to remove snow in front of fire hydrants on their property.
Public hearings on all the possible ordinance changes probably won’t happen until September, Mayor Mark Kaczynski said.
The next Town Council meeting is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Town Hall, 240 Kensington Road.