and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

May 17, 2005

Memo to Members of the Joint Committee on Revenue
Regarding Property Taxes and Senior Citizens

Memo to Members of the Joint Committee on Revenue
May 17, 2005
Re:  Property Taxes and Senior Citizens

Citizens for Limited Taxation takes second place to no one in its concern for senior citizens facing unaffordable property taxes. When we collected signatures on the initiative petition that created Proposition 2½, over twenty-five years ago, we were especially aware of the relief it would provide seniors and others on fixed incomes. Now, many of the activists who collected those signatures are seniors themselves or approaching fixed-income age, and their property taxes are moving to ever-higher levels.

One of the reasons for this is that communities are passing overrides without regard to lower- or fixed-income people, of all ages, who cannot afford them. When we created an override provision, we anticipated that it would be used for emergencies and unusual circumstances, not for operating budgets year after year. We could not, in 1979, envision the unaudited waste built into a School Building Assistance program that would encourage debt exclusions for schools. At the time, local officials weren’t giving their local unions extraordinary pension and health insurance benefits that would become “fixed costs,” paid for by taxpayers with high fixed costs of their own.

Though focused on senior citizens, we intended to limit property taxes for all citizens. We are opposed to new bills that give a break to seniors at the expense of young families with mortgages, family healthcare expenses, future college tuition and their own retirement savings. We are especially opposed to House 2341, which would exclude seniors from an override in their community. This is clearly meant to encourage seniors to stay home, thereby helping overrides pass – at which time the other burdened taxpayers would have to pick up the seniors’ share of the new higher taxes.

We do support the existing law that allows low-income seniors to defer their property taxes, and would like to see the interest on this deferral set at a more reasonable rate if a town chooses to do so.

We have also filed bills, not heard today, that would help all taxpayers by limiting the number of overrides to one a year, and allowing an underride in all communities, not just the few that presently have the ability to place a tax cut on local ballots.

We appreciate the twenty-five years of support that the Legislature, in general, has shown for Prop 2½, the senior citizens’ best friend.

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