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Town eyes tax-relief program for seniors

The town is considering a tax-relief program for seniors.

At the Town Council's meeting April 9, 2018, Tax Assessor Clint Swett presented a proposal based on a program used in Scarborough.

Swett assured councilors that parameters of the program could be changed, but the model would provide a maximum of $500 of relief per household for residents 62 and older, who have lived in Cape Elizabeth at least 10 years, have an annual income of $50,000 or less and a tax bill that exceeds 5 percent of their federally adjusted gross income.

The income threshold could rise to $59,700 if councilors choose to use Cape Elizabeth's median for residents 65 and older.

"I'm really really excited to see this," said Councilor Jamie Garvin, a proponent of the 2018 town council goal to provide tax relief for seniors. In a town almost completely dependent on property-tax revenue, tax increases have in some cases outpaced people's incomes, Garvin said. "The details (of the program) I think we can certainly finesse and nuance so that they make the most sense for this community, but I'm highly supportive of this from a conceptual standpoint," he said.

The council referred the proposal to their May 1 workshop, but Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said he believed it could be implemented this year, with a $75,000 line in the fiscal 2019 municipal budget. Sturgis, who served as tax assessor in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough before becoming Cape's manager, said he was familiar with the Scarborough program. "There's a lot of plug-and-play, you won't have to reinvent the wheel here," Sturgis told councilors.

The council would also need a new ordinance to support the tax-relief program.

Swett estimated 150 participants for the first year.