Journalism / New Haven Register

200 Guilford seniors denied tax relief benefits

By Rachael Scarborough King Register Staff
June 23, 2008

GUILFORD — About 200 participants in the town’s Elderly Tax Relief Program were unable to receive benefits this year as the amount of money in the program exceeded its cap by more than $300,000.

The tax freeze for elderly Guilford residents sets their taxes at a certain rate when they enter the program. The town currently has a cap of about $360,000 for the amount of taxes that can be frozen through the program, Assessor Edmund Corapinski said.

Due to a revaluation that saw property values rise by an average of more than 30 percent, taxes for people in the program rose this year, causing it to exceed the cap, Corapinski said.

The program also went over the cap last year, Corapinski said, by about $30,000.

Residents in the program are broken into three tiers, depending on income. Corapinski said that the town had to remove all 215 people in the highest income tier from the program this year, meaning that they will pay normal taxes based on the mill rate and assessed value of their property.

About 675 people total participate in the tax freeze program.

Participants have to reapply annually, and the people who lost benefits this year could receive them again next year.

“They’ll be put back onto the program,” Corapinski said. “Hopefully, (town officials) fund the program with more money and they’ll continue their benefits.”

The Board of Selectmen met with Corapinski and a member of the Tax Stabilization Committee, which first developed the tax freeze program nearly 10 years ago, this week to discuss possible solutions. First Selectman Carl Balestracci said there will be future meetings and the Board of Selectmen may ultimately make a recommendation to the Board of Finance to change the system.

“We discussed everything from possibly increasing the cap, reducing the threshold for those who qualify, a combination of both or maybe have no cap at all,” Balestracci said. “All of these are a little complicated and they’re going to take some tweaking. Whatever the final recommendation is, it’s going to take some work for us to accomplish.”

Balestracci added that people who were eliminated from the program this year will still have their taxes frozen at the same level as previously if they reapply next year.

“Those people who lose the benefit for this year will go back on next year, provided they still qualify and whatnot at the old tax rate that they had, because it was through no fault of their own,” he said.

Corapinski said he expects the program to exceed the cap again next year if no changes are made.

“The amount of money that the town wants to put to this program has to be significantly increased,” he said. “If it’s not, this will happen again next year.”

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