AMESBURY — A recent bill looking to expand the city’s senior tax exemption program filed by the District 6 city councilor has been gaining some support and now has a co-signer from District 2.
Provided under state law provision Clause 41C, the senior tax exemption program gives anyone 70 or over a chance to qualify for an annual property tax break of up to $500.
Married couples must earn less than $30,966 a year and have assets valued at less than $47,819 to qualify for the senior tax exemption program. Individuals must earn under $25,423 a year and have total assets valued at less than $44,631.
Pointing to a 2019 proposal by former Mayor Ken Gray, District 6 City Councilor Rick Marggraf filed an order last week designed to place no limit on assets on those who qualify for the senior tax exemption program.
Although Marggraf initially intended to file the measure on his own, District 2 City Councilor Anthony Rinaldi believes it could benefit many of the residents he met while running for election in the fall and he has now co-signed his first bill.
“A lot of my district is made up of a lot of older homes,” Rinaldi said. “There are a lot of people that have been living in them for a very, very long time. The continuing increasing tax rate is on the verge of driving some people out. That would be bad for the diversity in the city. We should protect those seniors.”
Marggraf and Rinaldi’s proposal expands the income limit for married couples to $88,000 annually and $58,000 for individuals; increases the potential exemption amount from $500 to 5% of the average residential value; and gives voters a chance to approve the changes as a ballot question during the November 2021 municipal election.
Although Marggraf and Rinaldi admit that calculations could change over the next two years, their bill could have the potential to increase the number of homeowners who qualify for the senior tax exemption program from 39 over the past fiscal year to roughly 273 if approved by voters in November 2021.
The proposal is scheduled to receive a first reading by the City Council at its meeting Tuesday. Marggraf was sworn into his second, two-year term on the City Council on Jan. 2, the same day Rinaldi was sworn into his first term. Tuesday evening will represent the second formal meeting of the current City Council.
Rinaldi, 77, said he was happy to co-sign with Marggraf on the senior tax exemption program bill and is looking forward to doing more as 2020 rolls on.
“There are a couple of other proposals that will be coming along this year that are also designed to make it easier for seniors to live in the town,” Rinaldi said. “This is what I pledged to do when I was campaigning and now this is the first step.”
Marggraf said he welcomes Rinaldi’s support of the bill.
“I am obviously always looking to open up new avenues to work with my fellow councilors,” Marggraf said. “There could be potential changes in the future but that would have to be worked out within the council over the course of the process.”
In July, the Newburyport City Council increased its senior tax exemption from $500 to $1,000, but struck down a measure that would have created a ballot question which would have indexed the income limit to the state’s senior circuit breaker program.
Marggraf said he recently received a phone call from a Newburyport resident, George Roaf, about tax abatement for veterans and the blind. He has also been speaking to city councilors in Newburyport to learn more about the community’s senior tax exemption program.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.