The Greenwich Board of Selectmen voted Thursday to extend the Senior Tax Relief Ordinance, a law that is set to expire in the end of June 2014. The tax relief program created by this ordinance provides credits to 650- 700 Greenwich residents annually, according to Lauren Elliott, Town of Greenwich Assessor.
The ordinance was last approved in 2009, and includes a 'sunset clause,' which sets an expiration date for the tax relief program of June 30, 2014.
Lori Contadino, Director of the Greenwich Council on Aging, requested that the Board consider removing the sunset clause to solidify the future of the senior tax relief program. She asserted "Seniors deserve the stability to not be worried about the program's renewal every 3-5 years"
While all three Selectmen agreed that the tax relief should continue without a sunset clause in the future, the practical and political reality of changing the ordinance before renewal created some disagreement.
First Selectman Peter Tesei and Selectman David Theis voiced concerns that because the ordinance still needs to be approved by the Board of Estimate and Taxation and Representative Town Meeting, renewal of the program could be jeopardized by amending its language for this renewal. In the interest of expedience, Contadino rescinded her request for removal of the sunset clause.
Selectman Drew Marzullo continued to advocate for the removal of the sunset clause, stating flatly "I don't want it." He voiced concern for the potential future of the tax relief program if the ordinance requires periodic renewal, as there is no guarantee that future boards will renew it.
According to Elliot, the program's tax relief ranges from $588 to $2235 per year, depending on the income level of the applicant. Although there is no limit on how many people the program may serve, there is a total spend limit of approximately $950 thousand. Elliot also said the town has never reached the spending limit and has never needed to turn down a qualified applicant.
Ultimately, the board voted 2-1 in favor of renewal as-is, with Marzullo's 'no' vote based solely on his objection to the persistence of a sunset clause. The ordinance will now be addressed by the BET and RTM.
According to Elliot, it is important that the renewal be settled before May 15, as the tax assessor's office will process all applications for tax relief between May 15 and June 1.