2016-04-21 / Letters

Saco tax relief: Yes, but maybe no

To the editor:

The Maine Legislature enacted an amendment to increase the Homestead Act. For residents unfamiliar with this program, the act grants tax relief to homeowners by reducing the taxable assessment on your primary residence. The recent change amounts to an additional $5,000 reduction on the assessed value of your property; As of April 1, the yearly reduction is $15,000 and will increase April 1 2017 to $20,000.

To obtain the benefit, two major qualifications are required. First, it must be the homeowner’s primary residence. Secondly, the resident must have owned the home for one year prior to applying for the exemption. An application is available at the city assessor’s office. This is a simple process and one that could save you, the homeowner, tax dollars. This is the “yes” part of the equation.

The “maybe no” refers to the presentation found in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017. To minimize tax impact on Saco residents, the city administrator rationalizes use of the Homestead tax relief benefit as a partial offset to the proposed municipal spending plan of $25.6 million. This is approximately a 1.5 percent increase or $578,000.

The benefit would break even for a home assessed at the median value of $211,000. Hence, the Homestead benefit is an indirect tax benefit for a homeowner who participates in the program. The amount of savings this year is $96 but instead of seeing the savings, it is being applied to the proposed budget. Detailed example follows:

Median home value $211,000 $211,000
Less Homestead Act $10,000 $15,000
Assessment value, home $201,000 $196,000
Mil rate (tax rate) 19.22 percent 19.22 percent
Tax bill $3,863 $3,767

These figures do not include county or school expenditures.

Residents who do not participate in the tax relief program will not receive any tax benefit. Non-participation could result in a hefty increase to your tax bill. Check your eligibility with the assessor’s office at 282-1611 or obtain information and an application at the link provided: http:// www.maine.gov/revenue/propertytax/sidebar/exemptions. htm.

There are two additional property tax relief programs in Maine. One is for veterans. The other is the Property Fairness Credit Program. Details are found on the Maine Revenue Service website and the link is in the previous paragraph.

As a taxpayer, you have a voice – the opportunity to review, comment or suggest changes to the proposed city and school budgets. Reach out to your councilor or school board member. Making this one call can make a difference in how much of a tax increase Saco residents will have this year.

The proposed city budget detail can be found at http:// www.sacomaine.org/ or Saco Citizens for Sensible Government Facebook page.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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