Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner will ask the Town Board to authorize the town to create a program that exists around the nation to let seniors work off their property tax increases by doing volunteer work for the town. Feiner will propose that in 2008 the town offer the program to up to 25 seniors, “If the program works we will expand it in future years.”
“Tax increases are forcing seniors to move out of their homes. This is very sad. The work off property tax program will enable seniors to stay in our community. In most communities around the nation seniors receive about $7- an hour and are able to work off up to $500-$700 of their taxes by performing a variety of programs: helping the library, coaching, bookkeeping, receptionists, tutoring. I am asking department heads to help identify possible opportunities.
Feiner said that he will lobby the NYS Legislature and US Congress to change existing law so that work for taxes programs can be income tax free. Feiner said that he hopes that Westchester County will also adopt the program.
A COPY OF THE BOULDER COUNTY WORK OFF PROGRAM FOLLOWS
A COPY OF A NEWS ARTICLE THAT APPEARED IN THE BOSTON GLOBE ALSO FOLLOWS
SENIOR TAX WORK-OFF PROGRAM
The Boulder County Commissioners have authorized the continuation of the Senior Tax Work-Off Program which began in 1986. This program is for people 60 years or older who own property in Boulder County and live at the location where the taxes are due.
Through this program, homeowners can be reimbursed for the County portion of their taxes, by working up to the number of hours that equals the amount of the County portion of taxes. The limit of reimbursement is now $700.00, at the wage of $7.00 an hour, as a temporary County employee. The Commissioners’ office pays half of the salary and the department the other half. The Senior receives a payroll check for the hours worked. The Social Security Tax (FICA)and PERA (Public Employee Retirement Association) are deducted. You can download an application or for an application and more information, please contact:
Carrie Haverfield, Coordinator
PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306
Will work for tax break
In barter, seniors and towns swap labor for lower property tab
By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff | January 9, 2005
Frank Bocchino retired years ago, but the 72-year-old now earns minimum wage as an assistant at a Braintree elementary school.
Bocchino never sees a paycheck because the money -- $6.75 an hour to check in library books, help students with math problems, and other jobs -- is deducted from his property tax bill.
For Bocchino, known as 'Mr. B." to his fourth-grade students, the deal is just right. It helps shave off about $750 from his annual $3,500 tax bill.
'I try to take advantage of every place I can get even $10," Bocchino said. 'Living on a fixed income, my money stays stable but my taxes and other expenses go up. It's ridiculous."
Bocchino is one of a growing number of senior citizens in communities south of Boston who are reducing their tax burden by working for their towns.
As real estate taxes soar along with other living expenses, senior citizens -- even those with healthy pensions -- say it is increasingly difficult to afford life in the suburbs. But many elders, for reasons both emotional and practical, refuse to sell their homes, some of which have skyrocketed in value over the past several years.
At least 20 communities south of Boston have adopted programs that allow senior citizens to swap service to the town for tax abatements. Town officials say they get help they could not otherwise afford, and seniors get a tax break that makes living a little easier. It is also cheaper for the town in the long run, in many cases, to keep senior citizens as residents because they require fewer services -- such as schools -- than a new family with young children, town officials say.
'These programs are getting more popular and catching on across the state," said Emmett H. Schmarsow, program manager for the Massachusetts Council on Aging, which operates under the Executive Office of Elder Affairs. 'The town receives valuable services and the elder gets financial help, which allows them to remain in their homes. It's good for seniors. It's good for the community."
The programs vary in each town, though most offer senior citizens the opportunity to work off between $500 and $750 of their annual property tax bills. Many municipalities, including Canton and Quincy, limit the number of participants and have lengthy waiting lists.
In Milton, which launched a similar program this year, 31 people applied for the 15 available spots. Some of the jobs include town greeters who sit at the entrance of Town Hall and help guide visitors to their destination.
'This year is the first time I've seen people who I previously thought were pretty comfortable coming forward saying it's harder and harder to make ends meet," said Mary Ann Sullivan, director of Milton's Council on Aging. 'If you're a poor elder, there are many programs, such as fuel assistance, to help out. But if you're caught in the middle, like many in Milton, it's very difficult."
So elders -- some who retired a decade ago -- are reentering the work force as custodians, teacher's aides, and bookkeepers. They may not be experts in their new field, but the senior citizens are eager to learn, town officials say.
Hedy Michelson has lived for 50 years in the Walpole home she and her husband built, and, like many senior citizens, has thought more than once about selling the house.
The 75-year-old lives alone and has a huge garden to tend on her 1-acre property, for which the couple paid 'a pittance" five decades ago, she said. But Michelson still thinks keeping the house is cheaper than renting, and defrays her taxes by working for Walpole's Board of Health, entering cesspool pumping records into the department's database.
'You think about downsizing and selling your house. Everyone thinks about it," said Bocchino, who has lived with his wife in the same Braintree home for 35 years. 'But with condos and monthly fees, I'm not sure I'd be gaining anything."
Many senior citizens do not understand the true value of their homes, according to Daniel Sullivan, an information services manager at South Shore Elder Services.
Although more elders are turning to reverse mortgages to tap into the equity in their homes, many are still apprehensive about the process.
'They fear they might lose their home and wind up in a nursing facility," Sullivan said.
This can result in situations where senior citizens are living in homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the mortgage paid off, but are working as a town custodian to help pay the taxes, he said.
Aside from tax work-off programs, more senior citizens are tapping into the state's 'circuit breaker" program, which provides income tax credits to seniors who meet certain income, age, and property value eligibility limits. In some towns south of Boston, the number of seniors filing for these tax credits more than tripled between 2002 and 2003.
Officials in several area communities said they hope to expand their tax work-off programs by allowing more seniors to participate and a larger reduction on their tax bills.
In some municipalities with long waiting lists, officials said they have let more elders join the program because it was too hard to turn them away.
'The need is there," said Thomas F. Clasby, director of Quincy's Council on Aging. 'It's just not realistic to say that senior citizens are financially secure simply because they bought houses a long time ago and they are now worth astronomical amounts of money. It's a difficult time for seniors especially."
Jenn Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.