2018-08-09 / Letters

Committee member wants to clear up tax program info

To the editor:

I have read the last two letters from Barbara Colman regarding the Senior Tax Workoff Program and feel that I must respond to these claims.

I was the volunteer coordinator for this program until I retired the beginning of this year. I am very concerned that these letters will cause anxiety for the volunteers working in this program. Because of Barbara’s allegations, the tax volunteers have lost $151 from their tax abatement. They were getting $750 for 100 hours worked and now get only $599 and work 59 hours. This has also caused a 40 percent shortfall in coverage for the various departments where the volunteers work. This was never set up to be a minimum wage position. The council had appropriated $30,000 for the program, which would allow 40 volunteers to work 100 hours and they would receive a credit of $750 toward their taxes. There has been so much turmoil caused over this issue, therefore, the Saco City Council created an ad hoc committee, of which I am a member, to look at all the pieces and come up with a recommendation for the future management of the Senior Tax Workoff Program. Barbara Colman is not a member of this committee nor has she ever worked in this program. Massachusetts and Connecticut have also been operating this program. Sen. Christopher Dodd and Congressman John Larson had submitted a bill in 2002 that would have excluded partial property tax exemption and abatements from income. The bill failed in committee. Some confusion regarding taxable income was because certain federal programs do not tax volunteer incomes, i.e. Vista and the Senior Corps Programs. Our committee is researching these issues and will submit our findings to the city council at which time it will establish guidelines for the program. While the city of Saco did not issue W2s or 1099s, they always sent a letter to the volunteers stating the amount of tax credit earned. This letter could then be used to file their income taxes.

I would like to clarify a couple of points regarding their volunteer status. We have approximately 10 volunteers who do not receive any tax credits and many of the tax volunteers work far beyond their 100 hours. That is why I have always referred to them as volunteers because they actually do work a lot of hours strictly as a volunteer without any compensation. The program guidelines specified income eligibility under HUD guidelines, therefore, many of the senior tax volunteers do not have to file income taxes because their income is so low.

I have faith that this ad hoc committee will come up with very positive feedback for the program and I am very pleased to be serving along with the rest of the members who are dedicated to this program and will see that it continues to benefit the volunteers and the city of Saco.

Mary Pelkey Saco

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