The Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday night to endorse broadening senior Tax Exemption guidelines, allowing an estimated 900 senior citizens to be eligible for a $500 tax break. The change will be sponsored by the Selectmen as a warrant article presented for approval at a Special Town Meeting on March 14.
"The whole goal is to increase the number of people participating in this," said Selectman Dennis Giombetti. Currently, there are only 15 seniors participating in the tax exemption program.
Chief Financial Officer Mary Ellen Kelley went over the current senior tax exemptions, as well as three different options for raising the exemptions and adjusting eligibility guidelines to allow slightly higher income and asset limits. These changes would qualify many more seniors to take advantage of the program.
The Selectmen voted unanimously to recommend to Town Meeting changes in the Senior Tax Exemption allowing: a minimum age of 65, an exemption amount of $500, single income limit of $20,000, married income limit of $30,000, single assets limit of $40,000 and married assets limit of $55,000. Assets do not include the taxpayer’s home.
Funding for the exemption would come out of the overlay budget, and the changes approved would take an estimated $450,000 out of the overlay.
Seniors must submit an application for eligibility to the program, and those approved would have to reapply annually. Kelley said her office could manage the incremental staffing costs and use temporary help in order to manage the program if the number of seniors applying increases significantly. She said her office has already begun accepting applications based on the projected new guidelines.
The tax exemption change would become effective on the day it is approved by Town Meeting, and qualifying seniors would first see the change on their 4th quarter 2012 tax bills.
Below is a roundup of 10 more things you may have missed at Tuesday night’s Selectmen’s meeting.
1) Selectmen voted unanimously not to take action on a change to the Senior Tax Deferral plan, which allows seniors not to pay interest or taxes on their home until the house is sold or the taxpayer is deceased. Any change would not take place until fiscal year 2013, so Selectman Giombetti said, “we don’t need to rush to do this.”
2) Selectmen approved the hiring of a consultant to confirm formulas dictated by the state and DOR for the Framingham Assessor's Office. The Town Manager will be tasked with working with a consultant for best practices. Selectman Charles Sisitsky said the chief assessor has too much work and needs some help. Selectman Laurie Lee said we should compare with other towns’ assessment practices. Selectmen Chair Jason Smith said the consultant should have no ties to Framingham.
3) Selectmen heard five potential warrants for a Special Town Meeting. After debating the merits of each and hearing Town Counsel’s opinions on the wording of each, they opened and closed the Special Town Meeting Warrant without endorsing any warrant beyond the one to the Senior Tax Exemption. The vote was 4-0-1, with Selectman Ginger Esty abstaining.
4) A change of manager request was approved for LaCarreta Mexican Restaurant at 270 Cochituate Rd.
5) A common victualer's license was approved for the Foodie Cafe at 102 Fountain St., in the Belcher Building.
6) Selectmen tabled discussion of the Eastleigh Farms land grant.
7) Selectmen voted to place the School Committee vacancy on the Town election ballot.
8) Selectmen approved the second reading of potential changes to the water and sewer abatement policy.
9) Selectmen approved parking restrictions on Franklin St. and new stop signs at Morse Rd. Parking restrictions will be on the West side of Franklin St. between driveways at 40 and 48 Franklin St. Installation of stop signs was approved on Cherry Rd. at Morse Rd. and Murray Hill Rd. at Morse Rd.
10) Selectmen approved a MOU between the MWRTA and the Town of Framingham involving a crosswalk installation at Waverley St.