Non-Binding Senior Tax Relief Question on March 29 Ballot
The Board of Selectmen has voted to place a non-binding, advisory question on the March 29 Town Election ballot, asking residents of Sudbury if they support a proposed tax relief program for qualified senior and disabled homeowners. A description of the tax relief program, Article 2, can be found in the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting, which will be mailed to all residents by mid-March, as well as here at the end of this letter. The Board feels that it is important to ask Sudbury voters if they support such a senior tax relief program before we begin the lengthy three step process we have set out for this program to become law in Sudbury. The process includes: (1) passage at the Sudbury Annual Town Meeting on April 7, 2004; (2) enactment of a Special Act by the state legislature and Governor; and (3) taking the finalized Special Act back to Sudbury for a binding vote of ratification at a townwide election.
The issue of tax relief for seniors has been high on the Selectmen’s agenda for the past year. Following last year’s Town Meeting the Board of Selectmen created the Property Tax Equity Review Committee (PTERC), to provide a mechanism for thoughtful and public examination of the issues surrounding property tax fairness in the Town of Sudbury. Article 2 is based on their findings and recommendations and is supported by PTERC and the Board of Selectmen, but not the Finance Committee, who will report a majority and minority opinion at Town Meeting.
If this tax relief program is enacted into law, it will affect all taxpayers in Sudbury. Seniors and disabled residents who are paying more than 10% of their income in property taxes, have homes valued no more than 125% of the average assessed residential property in town, and who meet income thresholds defined as low to moderate could receive a benefit of up to 25% of the average residential property tax bill. However, the taxes of others will have to increase to pay for this program. Article 2 establishes that this tax relief program would be funded through the levying of a new surcharge of 2% on all real property tax bills, much like the Community Preservation Act (CPA) assesses a 3% surcharge. Like the CPA, the Property Tax Relief Act would exempt qualifying low and moderate income taxpayers from paying the surcharge.
The Board of Selectmen urges all residents to study the article carefully and then vote on March 29 at the Town election. To participate in the March 29th elections and the April 7th Annual Town Meeting you must be a registered voter. The last day to register to vote for the Annual Town Election and the Annual Town Meeting is March 9th. The Town Clerk’s Office will hold a special voter registration on that day and the office will be opened from 8:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. The final report of the PTERC can be found elsewhere on this website and at the Goodnow Library.
BOARD OF SELECTMEN
Non-Binding Public Opinion Advisory Question
Should the Town petition the Legislature to enact special legislation to allow a property tax relief
program for qualifying elderly or disabled residential property owners in the Town of Sudbury, substantially as set forth in Article 2 of the Warrant for the 2004 Annual Town Meeting?
ARTICLE 2. SPECIAL ACT – PROPERTY TAX RELIEF FUND
To see if the Town will vote to petition the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to enact special legislation to provide that the Assessors of Sudbury shall use a property tax relief program in general according to the following provisions, or such others as may be included to further the intent of the program:
1. Funding Mechanism: The Town shall establish a Property Tax Relief Fund with monies raised from a surcharge of up to 2% on local property taxes. In the first year of the program, the surcharge will be set at 2%. The Board of Assessors will annually determine the amount of the surcharge in subsequent fiscal years, without exceeding the 2% maximum. For purposes of this section, the surcharge shall be assessed on all real property within the Town of Sudbury and the surcharge imposed under this Act shall be in addition to the regular tax levy of the Town of Sudbury and the CPA surcharge imposed pursuant to Chapter 267 of the Acts of 2000.
2. Excess/Deficiencies in Fund: Any monies remaining in the Property Tax Relief Fund at the end of the fiscal year shall be carried over into the next fiscal year and be available for this program in that next year. If there is a deficiency in the Fund to provide all eligible taxpayers with maximum relief, the benefits will be prorated across all program beneficiaries.
3. Compatibility with Existing Laws: Except as otherwise provided here, all provisions of the general laws regarding collection of and accounting for property taxes shall apply except that use of the funds collected by implementation of this surcharge shall not be subject to appropriation but rather shall be established as a separate “overlay” account to which the Board of Assessors shall charge the costs of benefits provided for under this article.
4. Compatibility with Existing Property Tax Personal Exemptions: Except as otherwise provided here, all provisions of other personal exemption laws shall apply, and this program is not intended to replace any other personal exemptions programs offered by the Town of Sudbury or the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding any other provision of this act, circuit breaker, deferral or tax work off tax benefits shall not be eliminated, reduced, offset or precluded by the receipt of benefits under this Act.
5. Award of Benefits: The Board of Assessors shall endeavor to incorporate the tax relief to all eligible taxpayers on their 4th quarter property tax bill by reducing the amount of tax due on that bill by the amount of the relief provided under this program. If the relief provided exceeds the amount of the tax liability at the time of the preparation of the 4th quarter bill, or the Assessors have not finalized the determination of benefit amounts or recipients by the due date for the 4th quarter bill, then the Town shall send to the taxpayer payment for the amount of benefit due the taxpayer.
6. Exemptions: All exemptions allowed for by the Community Preservation Act are incorporated into this article, except the exemptions for $100,000 of the assessed valuation of Class One residential parcels, and exemptions for Class Three commercial properties and Class Four industrial properties. Application for abatement of surcharge shall be filed with the Board of Assessors no later than 30 days after the mailing of the actual tax bill. Any surcharge amounts so abated shall be charged to the Property Tax Relief Fund. A person upon whom a surcharge has been assessed or a person aggrieved by the refusal of the Board of Assessors to grant an exemption under the provisions of this legislation shall have all remedies provided by section 59 and section 64 of chapter 59 and all other applicable provisions of the General Laws for the abatement and appeal of the surcharge or exemption under the provisions of this act. Taxpayers who are eligible to defer property taxes under G.L. Ch. 59 s5 (41A) and Chapter 320 Acts of 2002 may defer the surcharge.
7. Benefits: Taxpayers who are approved to participate in this program may annually receive a reduction in their property taxes. The benefit will be calculated to be the amount by which the participating taxpayer’s tax bill exceeds 10% of the total household income, as defined in the eligibility section. The amount of the benefit described above may be limited by two factors:
a. It shall not exceed 25% of the average residential tax bill for the prior year. (Example, if in FY04 the average residential tax bill is $8,000 the maximum benefit that can be given through this program in FY05 is $2,000.)
b. The total amount available in the Fund. If the amount in the Fund is insufficient to allow each parti-cipant to receive the full benefit, then the benefits will be prorated across all program beneficiaries.
8. Eligibility: Relief is available to residential homeowners who meet the following criteria:
a. Principal residence in Sudbury;
b. Minimum residency duration of 5 continuous years in Sudbury immediately prior to eligibility;
c. Age 65 or over or currently on long-term full disability, as defined by Social Security; (People on long-term full disability qualify for relief under this program only for the duration of that disability status.)
d. Assessed value of house can not exceed 1.25 multiplied by the average residential assessed value;
e. Income thresholds matching those defined in the Community Preservation Act (“CPA”) in terms of income level;
f. Actual income measured as the sum of Adjusted Gross Income from IRS form 1040 plus tax free dividends and interest and any other tax-free income, less then-current deductions available under the CPA; and
g. Property taxes, on the principal place of residence, must exceed 10% of income as defined above;
h. Eligibility is determined annually.
9. Interest on the Fund: The Treasurer shall invest the money in the Fund according to state law for General Fund investments, however, all interest earned shall be credited to the Fund.
10. Administrative Costs: This program shall be administered by the Board of Assessors. Up to 5% of the Fund shall be used to offset the annual administrative costs directly attributable to this program. Additionally, during the first year of the program, any start-up costs of implementing the program shall be paid for out of the Fund upon approval of the Board of Assessors.
11. Application for Benefits: Annual application for the benefit must be filed with the Board of Assessors no later than 30 days after the issuance of the actual tax bill. The Board of Assessors shall have 90 days from the date of filing of said application to approve or deny such application. Application for the Fund or surcharge exemption does not stay the collection of the tax. Appeal of any denial of the benefit by the Assessors shall be to the Appellate Tax Board.
12. Adoption: The provisions of this article shall only be established upon approval of Town Meeting, a special act of the State Legislature, and a majority vote in a regular (not special) Town or State election.
13. Implementation of the Program: Once all approvals of Town Meeting, State Legislature and Town or State Election have been obtained, the program shall be implemented beginning the next fiscal year.
14. Continuation of the Program: Town Meeting may vote to change or end the tax relief program after the 3rd year of its implementation. After the first three-year period is completed, the program will continue in three-year increments unless Town Meeting takes action to change or end the program at the end of each three-year period. Any changes approved by Town Meeting will also require the majority approval of Sudbury voters at the next regular (not special) election. In the event that local option legislation providing for similar property tax relief is accepted by the Town of Sudbury, the Town may terminate the provisions of this Act by vote of its Town Meeting. Notwithstanding any requirements of this Act or any special or general legislation, the Sudbury Board of Selectmen may request technical corrections at any Special or Annual Town Meeting.
15. Review of the Program: Following the initial three-year period and each three-year period thereafter, the Board of Selectmen or their designated representatives shall review the program and report their findings to Annual Town Meeting.;
or act on anything relative thereto.