September 17, 2014

Essex Town Meeting Approves Elderly and Disabled Tax Deferral Ordinance

ESSEX— Voters at a town meeting Wednesday approved a new property tax deferral ordinance for elderly and disabled homeowners while also extending the town’s existing elderly tax relief ordinance through November 2018.

Only a handful of residents turned out for the town meeting, with the ordinance approved on a nearly unanimous voice vote. One resident, Wally Schieferdecker, voted no, contending the ordinance was not clear on what would happen to outstanding taxes if it is not renewed in 2018.

The plan first proposed last summer by First Selectman Norman Needleman expands on an existing elderly and disabled property tax relief ordinance approved by voters in 2004. The ordinance, which currently assists 57 elderly and disabled property owners, allows the town to match any tax relief provided under the state’s Circuit Breaker Program for property owners who meet income guidelines.

The existing ordinance, along with the new option, requires that property owners meet the “rule of 85,” being at least age 65 and a resident of Essex for at least  as many years needed to add up to 85. Disabled property owners must meet Social Security Administration requirements for total disability.

The new option approved Wednesday allows eligible property owners to apply for a deferral that would freeze their tax bill, with the higher tax amount for future years becoming due within 90 days after the death of the taxpayer or the sale of the property. The new option would supplement, not replace, any tax abatements provided under the existing ordinance. The revised ordinance allows the town to place a lien on the property for the deferred tax total.

Needleman said he would have preferred to offer an expanded tax abatement for eligible homeowners, but analysis determined that an expanded abatement would have been too costly over the long term. Needleman said the deferrals and tax liens would continue after 2018, but acknowledged the ordinance may need revision in future years. Selectman Joel Marzi said the deferral option was “a solution worth trying,” as a way to offer some additional assistance to long-time residents who are having difficulty paying a rising property tax bill.

The revised ordinance will become effective next month, allowing interested property owners to apply for the benefit between February and mid-May for deferrals in the tax year that begins in July 2013. Property owners must be fully paid up on all real estate and motor vehicle taxes due by May 15 to apply for the deferral option.