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State Rep. James Arciero and State Sen. Edward Kennedy announced recently that Governor Charlie Baker has signed House Bill 4469, and Act authorizing the Town of Westford to Establish a Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption.
“I am pleased we were able to pass this measure and get the Governor’s approval to give this important tax option to the seniors of Westford. We all know that in the last few decades that property values and assessments have increased in our town. This new law will give greater flexibility to Westford seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, to be able to stay in their homes and in our town where they have raised their families,” said Arciero who filed the bill in 2019.
The measure was a proposal by the Westford Senior, Low-income, Disabled Tax Relief Committee (SLIDTR Committee) in order to give many seniors on fixed incomes some property tax relief. It was passed by Westford Town Meeting in October 2018 and filed as a home rule petition in the Massachusetts legislature.
“Congratulations to the members of the SLIDTR Committee for identifying an issue and putting in the hard work to create this program that has the potential to help many Westford seniors remain in their homes for many years to come,” said Senator Ed Kennedy.
“I am thrilled to learn that today the Governor approved this legislation. It will provide much needed relief to many of our seniors, who are living on fixed incomes and struggling to stay in their homes. I would also like to thank both Representative Arciero and Senator Kennedy for filing this home rule petition, shepherding it through the Legislature, and getting it to the Governor’s desk. There now remains one more step before the adoption of this measure by the Town—it must be approved at an upcoming election. The Select Board will discuss putting this on as a ballot question at our upcoming Town elections in May,” said Andrea Peraner-Sweet, Chair of the Westford Select Board.
The bill will apply to residents of Westford who are 65 years of age or older who occupy the property as their primary residence and have lived in town for at least 10 years. Finally, the bill will need to be adopted by the citizens in a referendum at a Westford special or town election. Several other provisions provides for the exemption to not exceed 50 percent of total taxes assessed and has an asset limit for applicants. The Westford Board of Assessors will administer the program if accepted by the town, as it does for other real estate tax abatement programs under Chapter 59 of the general laws of the Commonwealth.
“Seniors who depend primarily on Social Security have seen their income rise at an average of about 1.3 percent for the last 12 years. During that period, their costs, including Westford property tax, have increased at several times that rate. Older low-income seniors who wish to continue living in their homes are increasingly at financial risk.
This exemption is designed to help the most vulnerable seniors who have qualified for the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit and other exemptions, and are still paying over 10 press of their income for property tax,” concluded SLIDTR Committee member Paul Fassbender.