Letter: Woodbridge Tax Abatement for the Elderly
The Woodbridge town budget was finalized at the May 15 Town Hall, with a mill rate of 45.08, up from 43.77 last year, the seventh highest mill rate in the state. Because of the desirability of living in Woodbridge, and the relative scarcity of homes for sale, prices have skyrocketed, and coupled with the high mill rate, have driven property taxes ever higher.
Hardest hit by these increases are seniors on fixed income. That house purchased in 1980 for $150,000 on today’s market will fetch almost $400,000, and valuations, the basis for taxation, have increased accordingly. The State of Connecticut, in order to help defray this burden, has established a program to allow localities to abate property taxes for seniors meeting certain income thresholds, and for the disabled, without income requirements, with reimbursement to the towns for these abated taxes. Woodbridge has such a program, providing tax abatements of $1400 for residents over sixty-five, with and income not exceeding $40,300 for a single individual and $49,100 for a couple. Smaller abatements are provided for those earning around $80,000.
While helpful, the real problem is the constant upward creep of property taxes, with no end in sight. At the last Board of Selectman meeting, May 10, 2023, I proposed freezing the property taxes for all seniors, without regard to income, helping to keep seniors in their homes a little while longer. The lowered tax revenue would be offset several fold if the school population was stabilized as a result.
I was told by Town Attorney, erroneously, as it turns out, that there was a statute prohibiting freezing taxes. When he could not reference the law, he told me to look it up. (I thought that was why we paid a Town Attorney!) I did, and what I found was the Local Option Property Tax Relief for Seniors, Conn. General Statute sub section 12-129n, which allows towns to provide additional tax relief for seniors over 65 or disabled, without state reimbursement, and without income criteria. This relief can include freezing taxes at certain levels, provided that it is limited to 10% of the total value of real estate in the town, and the local and state-allowed reimbursement does not exceed the property holder’s annual tax. Towns can also vote to abate property taxes without regard to age if the tax exceeds 8% of the owner’s income for that year. Owner must agree to reimburse the town for the abated amount upon death or when the property is sold.
Some 109 towns have varying levels of abatement:
- Bethel has a credit program for incomes below $42,500 which allows an abatement of up to75% of a participant’s property tax, which does not have to be repaid, and a freeze program for incomes below $45,000;
- Branford allows deferral of up to 75% of annual property taxes for an income of up to $62,500 for singles and $75,00 for married couples; above 75% a lien is placed on the property, with a variable rate of interest of from 0 to 3%, depending on income;
- Bristol allows up to 100% of taxes deferred for incomes below $40,320 and $49,420 for single and married respectively;
- Other towns have freeze programs, credits, abatements and deferrals all with varying eligibility criteria, percent limits, payback plans;
- Guilford, a town not dissimilar to ours, allows a 75% deferral for couples earning less than $95,00, with a property lien, and freezing of taxes for the same income, without a lien.
I think it’s time for a serious look into finding tax relief for our older population, who’ve paid taxes for a lifetime, well after their children finished school. I think our other elected officials should make this a priority. I know that I do.
<span class="fineprint">This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.</span>