More elderly and disabled homeowners in New Canaan will be eligible for tax breaks next fiscal year.
The Town Council approved last week three major changes to New Canaan's tax relief for the elderly or disabled program, which include increasing most of tax credit amounts, relaxing the asset limits and expanding the income categories from three to five.
Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert said the changes would help New Canaan's lowest-earning elderly or disabled homeowners keep up with potential tax hikes, caused by a decrease in the town's grand list.
"It's a good timing. Let's face it," Walbert said.
Applicants' annual income cannot exceed $60,000, and they must be at least 65 years of age by Dec. 31 of the previous year or totally disabled.
With the changes, those who make less than $50,000 a year would see an increase in their property tax credit. Couples who make less than $20,000, for instance, would see a 50 percent increase -- from $2,000 to $3,000.
Penny Young, chairman of the Town Council's tax relief subcommittee, said a more thorough evaluation and review of the program will be conducted after the 2014-15 budget is adopted.
With the recent changes, the program will increase the limit on financial assets an applicant may have from $200,000 for single residents and $250,000 for couples to $350,000 and $450,000, respectively. Financial assets include cash, stocks, bonds, commodities and ownership interests. The value of the residence for which tax relief is being sought is not included.
Since 2009, when the town instituted a cap on allowable assets of $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for couples, there has been a decline in the number of qualified individuals, according to Young, because many applicants had assets with higher values.
"We're feeling that the asset requirement that we instituted was a little too low, and that it disqualified a number of people who really should be in the program," Young told the Board of Finance March 4.
The tax credit program is funded by the difference between what the Board of Finance projects taxes to be collected and the amount that is actually collected. Every year, the town projects tax collection rates that are lower than actual rates to minimize the potential of total revenues falling significantly short of budget. The town has agreed to use some of the balance, which is usually kept as reserve funds, to pay for the tax relief program.
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