A decade-old Massachusetts program that allows a property tax break for senior citizens may be introduced in the state’s third largest city. Springfield would join several smaller cities in the region that already offer the popular program.
The Senior Tax Work-Off Program allows homeowners over the age of 60 to perform tasks for a municipality in exchange for a one-time abatement of a portion of their property tax bill. It is offered in more than 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts including Westfield, Chicopee and Holyoke.
Carole Houle put in 93 hours last year doing work for the Holyoke Parks and Recreation Department in exchange for getting $750 knocked off her property tax bill.
Gigi Connell, another participant in the program in Holyoke, said she did it to save money, but also to keep active.
Because a limited number of positions are available in the program each year, most municipalities hold lotteries to pick participants. The amount of the abatement varies depending on the municipality. The pay rate for the program participants is based on the federal minimum wage.
Janet Rodriguez Denney, Springfield’s director of elder affairs, said there has been interest in the program for years among the city’s senior citizens, and with downsizing in city government, there are a variety of job opportunities.
The ordinance that has been drafted in Springfield will limit first year participation in the program to 20 property owners and the tax abatements will be $500 each. Denny said the hope is to expand the program in future years.
The city council voted back in 2001 to accept the state legislation allowing the property tax work-off program for senior citizen homeowners, but it was never implemented because at the time Springfield was in a dire financial situation that would ultimately require a state bailout.
City council Timothy Rooke said he’s disappointed it took so long to bring the program to Springfield.
Rooke expects the city council to vote in September on the ordinance to create the program.
The head of the board of assessors in Springfield, Richard Allen, said he is unsure how quickly the program could be implemented once the city council authorizes it.