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Friday, January 11, 2008

Talking tax relief

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief

MILFORD—Republican Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. and aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, a Democrat, agree the city needs to institute a senior tax relief plan to take effect next year.
But that is where the agreement ends. Richetelli has asked the Board of Aldermen’s Ordinance Committee to investigate the plan he first pitched in September during the mayoral campaign.
Blake said he wants the mayor to do what he said he would in September and create an ad hoc committee to study his plan and other plans offered by communities.
Neither political leader seems willing to budge, but both said the issue of senior tax relief will be studied over the coming months.
Blake said he will form an ad hoc committee if Richetelli doesn’t do it first, and the committee will study multiple possible senior tax relief strategies.
"We have to look at various proposals and what is the right fit for Milford," Blake said. "It’s short-sighted to review just one plan."
Richetelli said the appropriate agency to study senior tax relief is the ordinance committee, which will be the five members to vote on a plan.
"Why go through a middle man?" Richetelli asked. "An ad hoc group is not the right way to go."
Richetelli said he has no issue with the aldermen looking at senior tax relief plans from other communities. He said he has already examined other communities’ plans, and said Shelton’s does not "go as far as my plan," and that New Haven’s plan allows for liens on seniors home, which Milford seniors did not want.
Richetelli also said he could not favor any plan that did not have income guidelines because it would not be fair.
Blake said that in the four months since Richetelli went public with the proposal, the mayor still has not determined the financial impact it may have on the city.
"It’s more of a concept or a half-baked concept," Blake said. "For the mayor to introduce a plan seems premature."
Richetelli said the Ordinance Committee will look at how much it will cost and whether the city can afford it. Richetelli said it’s hard to get accurate numbers concerning the cost because you need at least one year of experience.
Currently, the city offers a $600 property tax break for single or disabled seniors earning $27,700 or less, or married couples earning $33,900 or less. A total of 990 seniors participate in the senior property tax program, costing the city $557,000.
But under Richetelli’s proposal, a single senior or disabled resident, depending on various income guidelines, could earn a maximum $1,000 tax break. Also, the income guidelines have been significantly increased as a single senior or disabled resident could earn $51,000 and still receive a $400 tax reduction, while a married senior couple earning $56,900 could earn the same $400 rebate.
Brian McCready can be reached at 876-3001.