2018-08-02 / Letters

Saco seniors, abatement program will be fixed

To the editor:

If you are one of the individuals who has worked in the Saco senior volunteer tax abatement program, please understand I, along with several others, have attempted to resolve the issue of volunteer versus employee since January 2016.

If you thought it was best to leave well enough alone with the senior program, I understand. The realty is this issue not having been resolved impacts you personally and the taxpayers of Saco.

The city administrator, finance director, former finance director, human resources director, current and former mayors and councilors did not resolve the issue when addressed privately and publicly numerous times. Two councilors did hear the concerns about the senior Program – William Doyle of Ward 3 and Al Minthorn of Ward 5.

The current administration, with approval of council, lowered the number of hours and dollar amount of the abatement to make a volunteer a contracted employee. This was based on a false premise. The city has several individuals whose positions should have the required skills needed to determine the proper classification of employees versus contractors, etc. And, all these paid individuals have failed you, the volunteers.

By IRS definition and a confirmation with an IRS agent, volunteers in this program are considered an employee of the city of Saco.

Your pay rate should have been based on Maine’s minimum wage. Seniors who worked after Jan. 1, 2017 are entitled to a wage of $9 per hour; as of Jan. 1, 2018, $10 per hour. Currently, you are owed funds from the city of Saco if you worked during this time. on the abatement program wage issue.

Workers Compensation coverage should be in effect on individuals who participate in the program. This is to cover you if you are hurt on the job. Yes, you will be required to fill out all proper employment forms as any employee would. FICA/Medicare taxes will be withheld, will be reported properly to federal and state agencies, regarding wages by the city of Saco paid in the form of an abatement.

You should receive a W-2 from the City of Saco to file federal and state income tax forms for each year you participated. The state will disallow earnings from the program because of state laws regarding the program. The federal government considers it taxable income. In some cases, depending upon other income earned, you may be entitled to earned income tax credit and other tax credits. If you are 65 or older, there are tax credits for the elderly and/or disable.

Your next step should be to reach out to your ward councilor. Ask them to assist you to resolve the issue of the pay discrepancy as soon as possible. You earned the funds and are entitled to be compensated.

The mayor has established a committee to look at the program as well as other alternatives for seniors to stay in their homes. Councilor Minthorn is chairman of the Senior Tax Abatement Program Ad Hoc Committee. He is well versed in other federal and state programs. Councilor Minthorn recognizes the impact of the decision not corrected by the administration. The committee includes two state representatives, Donna Bailey and Maggie O’Neil, to assist at the state and federal levels. Others on the committee include former councilors, mayors and attorneys.

Please reach out to srtaxabatement@sacomaine.org with questions. If you have questions regarding the information presented and require assistance, please do not hesitate to email me at becolman1@gmail.com.

Lastly, never did I expect for this issue to go unresolved so long by individuals fully aware of the impact on our senior citizens who have lived in Saco for years. It is my hope the committee will bring some alternative programs for the council to approve for seniors to be able to stay in their homes. The committee will report to the council sometime in late fall.

Barbara Colman Saco

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