May 26, 2018
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Greenville weighs a new tax break

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

GREENVILLE, Maine — The elderly who volunteer in the community could get a tax break under a proposal being explored by selectmen.

Selectmen are investigating LD 2202 which allows towns to adopt a program that would provide up to $750 in property tax benefits to residents 60 and older who volunteer their services to the towns where their homes are located.

Town Manager John Simko told selectmen Wednesday he has heard from a handful of residents who want the board to participate in such a program.

Kittery, which initiated the legislation, wanted the right to give tax abatements for volunteer work by seniors similar to a program offered in several Massachusetts communities.

Kittery wanted to create a safety net for people who are threatened with loss of property and whose incomes are no more than 15 percent over general assistance guidelines.

Simko said St. Agatha adopted a similar program for its elderly residents but without the volunteerism requirement. To date, no one has requested the extra assistance.

In a draft document Simko prepared and presented Wednesday, he suggested the town could provide up to $350 off an elderly person’s property tax bill provided certain restrictions were met. For example, the person would have to have lived in Greenville the entire previous year; own and reside in a Homestead Exemption eligible property; be eligible for the Maine Residents Property and Rent Refund program for the same calendar year; and be encouraged, but not required, to do volunteer work in the community.

While the law sought to give property tax relief to those who volunteer, Simko said there are liability issues that are not resolved. He said the law is “vague and obscure.”

“This is potentially a significant outlay of cash,” Simko said.

As of April 1, 2008, there were 501 residents who took advantage of the Homestead Exemption, Simko said. In addition, as of Oct. 14, there were 91 refunds given through the Maine Residents Property Tax and Rent Refund program, he said. Not all of these people were 60 years or older.

If 150 residents were eligible for the proposed new program, the total cost to Greenville would be $52,500, Simko said.

While the elderly would benefit from the program, other taxpayers would have to make up for the difference, he said.

If the board supports such a proposal, Simko suggested that they do so through an ordinance and that the ordinance be presented for adoption by residents at the annual town meeting.

Selectmen directed Simko to work more on the details and to report back to them at a future meeting.


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