During the Monday, December 14, 2020 Town Council meeting, Town Assessor Clinton Swett reviewed the annual report on the Property Tax Assistance Program as required by the Property Tax Assistance Ordinance adopted by the council on January 14, 2019. The Fiscal Year 2021 report represents the third year the tax relief program has been in place.
The program aims to offer assistance to seniors within the community who meet a specific set of parameters. Eligible applicants must be 65 years or older; be a property owner within Cape Elizabeth for ten years or greater; have a homestead exemption; have an annual household income of less than $60,000; and have taxes that are greater than 5 percent of their gross adjusted taxable income. Should the applicant qualify, the program provides a reimbursement on a portion of their tax burden up to $500 per applicant.
The report states that for Fiscal Year 2021 there were 181 applicants. Of these applicants, 14 were denied for various reasons due to: being over the income maximum; taxes were not greater than 5%; no homestead exemption; or have moved out of town. In 2019, the first year the program began, there were 132 applicants. The second year showed a 28 percent increase with 169 applicants in 2020.
Given the numbers, Swett recommends that the amount earmarked for the program in the Municipal Budget for Fiscal Year 2022 be increased from $85,000 to $95,000. In response to Councilor Jeremy Gabrielson’s question over anticipated projections, Swett answered that he estimates that a $95,000 budget will be “right on target” to offer assistance for eligible residents. The average age of applicants is approximately 77 years old and the average income for this year is $29,700. In his report to the council, Swett shared that the seniors are very appreciative and that he is “so proud to be a steward of this program.”
Reimbursement checks will be issued by the end of January 2021. Eligible residents must apply annually, however, applications will be sent out automatically after the first time. The application and more information can be found on the Assessing Department web page or by clicking here.