Monday, December 10, 2007

BOSTON, AUGUSTA, BOULDER LET SENIORS WORK OFF TAXES--SHOULDN'T GREENBURGH DO SAME?

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

Phone 303-441-1688

chaverfield@co.boulder.co.us

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."

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lets see

Feiner wants subsidized housing/tax subsidies to volunteers.

Tax breaks to elderly.

Once again, the middle class is overburdened.

Feiner -- WHAT PART OF WE CANT AFFORD THIS DONT YOU UNDERSTAND

hal samis said...

What this concept needs to make it work, though, is a corresponding decrease in expenses. The concept is high minded: to find a way to allow those that can't afford to pay increasing taxes provide some form of "payment in kind". So far so good.

However, if they get relief, that means that the remaining tax bite (including that which was due from seniors) must be taken up by the rest of the population. And this is the problem.

Thus, if Town expenses were reduced a corresponding amount, the win-win scenario could be trumpeted. But the only way this can occur would be for the seniors to replace existing paid employees or those to be hired.

Spending to save is not an economic reality.

Anonymous said...

If the senior volunteers perform only make-work projects, then this is simply a tax reduction for seniors by way of a gift. That is high-minded, but unfair to the remaining taxpaying residents.

The way to reduce taxes for seniors is to reduce taxes, period. No gimmicks, please.

Anonymous said...

How do you propose to reimburse union members who work for the Town and whose income will be decreased by having their jobs given to seniors?
Futher, it may be a violation of the Town's collective bargaining agreements with the CSEA and other unions to have the work performed for an hourly rate below that required by the contract.
If you think Bernstein was a legal pain in the butt over Taxter Ridge, you ain't seen nothing til you see a union wages and hours lawyer fighting the Town...

Anonymous said...

Cute idea, but how would the tax revenue be paid? Whatever amount they'd be excused from paying would need to be subtracted from the town budget. Might work in big cities with big budgets, but it doesn't seem feasible or justified for Greenburgh.

Anonymous said...

why doesn't someone google work off taxes and contact some of the program coordinators? This program has received great reviews all over!

Anonymous said...

If i work off some money from my taxes my son and daughter would have to pick up the difference when paying their taxes.
Some one has to pay for the difference.
You were told what to do over and over again.
I remember one year the city of New york laid off police person why cant that happen here,the city is bigger than Greenburgh.
I just think this board does not want to do the right thing to help the residents.
We should all go on strike and not pay our taxes,could they put us all out of our residents.
Is there anyone out there that could advise us as what would happen if this is done.

Anonymous said...

All seniors do is wine, and take advantage of the system!

Wining Senior said...

Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay?

Anonymous said...

The attorney's office can hire retired lawyers. Great deal.
The comptrollers office can provide retired accountants with this opportunity. Great deal for the town.
Maybe, there are retired coaches who could work for parks or the pool.
This could be a big help for the town as well as seniors

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of paying opportunities for retired accountants and lawyers. Municipal work is specialized. I dont think there would be a good skills match.

This idea may be well intended, but I fear it would result in less tax revenue and no decrease in town payroll.

The supervisor floats these ideas to appeal to special interest groups with not enough concern re most taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

I think this is just another way around civil service. I dont want patronage jobs. There are plenty of jobs available.

Right Wing Radical said...

Massachusetts taxes are among the highest in the country - thanks to a menu of entitlements and generous benefits - and the $700 one can earn under the cap doesn't go very far. A senior could earn FAR more by going over to Wal*Mart and working three weeks of part-timer shifts.
It takes CASH to run a government - and the more services and entitlements the government provides, the more CASH it takes. Where does the Town expect to get the CASH - why from the rest of us who are paying taxes!
Let's get a homerule bill from Albany that adds 1/4% to the sales tax and start collecting more from people like Hal Samis who brag about not paying property taxes - he still has to eat, doesn't he?

Anonymous said...

Seniors already get enhanced STAR benefits off their school taxes, which are the biggest part of property taxes. I think Paul has to think more about the average Joe homeowner. Maybe if he didnt live in a gated community which gets assessed preferentially he could be more understanding of the middle class.

Anonymous said...

Dear Right Wing Radical

Hal Samis doean't brag about not paying taxes. He admits it, for full disclosure, so that his important messages don't get misconstrued.

Otherwise your message is right on.

Anonymous said...

How about conscripting seniors for town work? Forget about techinicalities like the 13th Amendment.

Anonymous said...

Paul the idea did not go over too well on TV.
Forgetaboutit.

Anonymous said...

The idea won't work for a Greenburgh.

(By the way, to someone above, retired lawyers and accountants probably aren't having problems paying their taxes to qualify for a work-off program.)

Anonymous said...

Paul, This will raise our taxes.

Realize you think as follows

"Even with this budget, the town is not overtaxing its communities," Feiner said

Anonymous said...

This could be a godsend for seniors who are struggling to pay their taxes. Seniors worry about living here.
It is not for everyone. It is a good idea for some.

Anonymous said...

My friend in Boston reports that this initiative is so popular that there is a waiting list. Helps keep Boston affordable for seniors.

Anonymous said...

Seniors get cola in Social security.

What about middle aged with kids in college?

we cant afford this.

Anonymous said...

Joe Berger of the NY Times is apparently using this bogus "senior citizen initiative" to do another puff piece on Feiner -- hence, the reason for the blog's latest comments promoting the idea, which probably came from Feiner himself.

Residents, old and young, recognize an attention-diverting gimmick when they see one.

Let's see if Joe Berger includes in his story that Feiner campaigned for re-election on his having had no tax increases in the past two years, that Feiner also promised in a mailing only to the villages only, that when it came to tax fairness he would put the "villages first," that Feiner waited until after the primary election and five days before the general election to proposed a 23% tax increase only for the town's unincorporated areas, while sparing the villages, that such an increase is the largest in Feiner's 16-year tenure, that Feiner seems unwilling or unable to recommend to the town board any of the solutions that residents of the unincorporated area have suggested to cut the increase by half or more, and that Feiner's proposal to let seniors work off the tax increase has thus far found no support either among seniors or among the rest of us who would have to pick up the tab.

Anonymous said...

Many senior citizens love this idea. Bet ya that there will be a waiting list.
Sorry, Francis. You won't be able to stop the program. You don't have the votes anymore.

Anonymous said...

What about the middle class that will have to pay for this Mr. Senior Citizen?

Guess Paul doesnt care about us.

He already says we're not over taxed.

Anonymous said...

Good idea. good program. have friends in Boston who Love the program.

Seniors Rock! said...

To All forgotten seniors,
Forget about this program you have worked hard all of your lives, now it is time to have your life work for you. If You have been blessed to own your homes and raised your families then you have paid enough!Let me help you get your piece of the pie out of your homes.Contact me to find out how. rosezella.munroe@imb.com