Barrington weighs tax break for senior residents

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Local officials are examining a proposal aimed at freezing tax bills for senior citizens.

The town’s senior services advisory board is pitching the senior tax deferment plan. Board chairwoman Margaret Kane, who presented the matter to the town council Monday night, said the town’s comprehensive plan is “replete” with recommendations on keeping seniors in town. She said one crucial aspect of helping seniors stay in Barrington is taxes.

The proposal is still a rough draft at this point though it would essentially serve as a tax lien that freezes the tax bill of eligible residents for a period of time.

The tax bill would be frozen regardless of rate or appraisal increases for a certain time frame. Some of the possible periods mentioned included 10 years, 15 years, until the time of sale or death.

The proposal also calls for assessing a level of interest on the total accumulated deferred tax bill.

Those who would be able to receive the deferment must be 65 or older under the draft proposal and must earn less than 80 percent of Barrington’s median household income at the time of application to the program.

Ms. Kane said she hoped to get the town council’s blessing on the idea and have staff look into the plan further.

“I think this is a good place for us to start,” she said.

The town currently offers two senior tax exemptions: All residents age 65 and older are eligible for an $18,400 exemption — a reduction of that amount from a senior’s property value — if their local property is a permanent place of residence. Senior citizens are also eligible for a “circuit breaker” exemption that varies based on income.

Barrington Town Council President June Speakman said the idea was worthy of investigation by staff, while councilor Kate Weymouth said she would like to see the proposal potentially replace the current exemption not based on need.

A similar program is reportedly in place in Bristol. It is open to residents 65 and older who have lived at their home for at least 20 years and have a gross household income of less than $50,000. The tax lien accrues with 6 percent interest annually. Payment is due once the property is sold or transferred or after the owner dies.

The town council is expected to receive a report on the matter in March.

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