Neil Chaudhary"I voted last year to increase the amount available to seniors for tax credit by more than 22%, making more funds available for the disabled and seniors making less than $65,000 per year. I am not sure raising the cap makes sense—the current cap seems reasonable but I am willing to hear and consider arguments favoring an increase to it. Increasing the cap without increasing the dollars available would lower the amount any one individual would receive in tax relief. The dollar value available is weighted such that those who make more get less of a relief—that too makes sense to me. The question, however, is whether or not the dollars available for relief are sufficient. All things being equal, every dollar used in tax relief results in a higher tax burden to those not receiving the relief.
The next council is due to discuss tax relief for some disabled veterans in our town. I believe this is a worthy cause and look forward to seeing that happen.
Revaluation, for the most part, is conducted according to state law. There is not much the town can do about it. That said, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding with regards to the process and how it impacts property taxes. In the future I would like to be much more involved with educating the public with regards to the process—I think that frequently our public officials assume that some folks understands some of the 'jargon' we use better than they actually do. I often feel that some things can be better explained."
George Ferguson"The Legislative Council looks at Senior Tax relief just about every year and has generally been increasing the amount of funding available at the recommendation of the Tax Collector. I fully support these efforts. We should also explore new ideas."
Mary Ann Jacob"Most areas of revaluation are dictated by the state. The concerns we have heard from our citizens about taxes cannot be solved without addressing the main issue. Our spending needs to be slowed and our revenue from our commercial base increased. I believe in continuing to support our senior tax relief program so those residents who most need it can take advantage. Increasing the overall amount of money targeted for that program each year helps."
Ryan Knapp"As we are all aware, many seniors, especially those living in adult communities were hit particularly hard by revaluation. I've had some very good dialogue with seniors since being appointed to the Legislative Council. Many of the concerns I have been hearing are of frustration. A large portion of these residents are on fixed incomes and tax increases impact all other facets of their lives. I created a list of questions based on my notes from meetings and requested that those be addressed at the Board of Finance Senior Forum which I attended. When I spoke with seniors I firstly encouraged them to make sure the information on their field cards was correct. Many followed up with the Assessor's Office. Then we had a discussion about what we as a town can do. Because so much of the tax process and revaluation is governed by state statute, we as a municipality are limited in changing the process. That extends even to how information is communicated between the Assessor's Office and the property owner.
What we can do and intend to look into after the election is possibly broadening our senior tax relief to raise the income restrictions and increase the pool set aside for relief. This must be done through ordinance so it would fall on myself and the rest of the Legislative Council."
Paul Lundquist"I support any measures we can take as a town to expand tax relief programs for Newtown’s seniors. I believe any tax relief offered should be needs-based, but we could potentially expand coverage by raising the threshold that qualifies 'need.' Which raises the question: how would we fund this expanded tax relief service to aid a small but important segment of seniors? The answer would most likely be through the goodwill of all other tax payers -- including the majority of Newtown’s seniors. I think we, as a community, should consider this type of program to help ensure that our residents who are most in need have the opportunity to continue living in our town.
The issue of revaluation is largely out of our hands as a local government, as I understand it, other than the limited opportunity to correct clerical errors. While it was a minority of homes that saw an increase in their tax liability, many of these increases were truly outrageous. Additionally, every owner was hit with a straight increase in motor vehicle tax that reflected the full increase in the mill rate. This only serves to heighten the urgency of controlling town spending and finding alternative town revenue sources (i.e., expanded commercial tax base) to help reduce the burden on property taxes for residents and small businesses."