SCARBOROUGH – The Scarborough Town Council has unanimously approved changes to the town’s tax assistance program, prompted by the unanticipated onslaught of applications that came in last year, after it lowered the minimum eligibility age from 65 to 62.
According to Councilor Judy Roy, 39 homeowners applied who would not otherwise have been eligible, which forced Town Manager Tom Hall to prorate the $130,000 pool of available funds.
“The change obviously opened it up to a lot more people, plus there’s this demographic wave of baby boomers that’s crushing, as well,” said Hall. “I guess we were caught short and didn’t adequately budget.”
According to Assistant Assessor Susan Russo, 311 homeowners were deemed eligible for the program, by virtue of qualifying for the state “circuit-breaker” program. As such, Hall said, he was forced to reduce all awards by 6 percent and that, said Roy, meant some got a tax break of as little as $30.
“Although it may seem like a small amount of money that was lost, it meant a lot to some of our older residents who really needed it,” said Roy.
As a result, the council voted April 3 to fund the program next year to its full need, whatever that may be.
“This is a no brainer,” said Councilor Richard Sullivan. “I think everybody was surprised when some of these were prorated. That was never our intent.”
Hall said he will budget $145,000 for the program “as a starting point,” but cautioned he may have to return to the council to appropriate more money if qualified applications again outpace available funds.
“That won’t be painful, I don’t believe,” said Chairman Ron Ahlquist. “I can’t image we won’t be in favor of that.”
However, in the event money should go unspent, the council authorized the creation of a reserve account to stockpile those funds, which would otherwise roll back into the general fund at the end of the fiscal year.