The Damariscotta Board of Selectmen instructed Town Manager Matt Lutkus to gather more information about the possibility of adopting an elderly tax deferral ordinance during its meeting Wednesday, April 5.
The selectmen have discussed the possibility of property tax relief for senior citizens in the past, Lutkus said.
Under a state law passed in 2009, municipalities have the authority to adopt a property tax deferral ordinance for senior citizens. In order to be eligible for the program, the taxpayer must own the property and have lived on the property for at least 10 years prior to applying for deferral.
In addition, applicants must be at least 70 years old, and their household income must not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
Taxes will accrue on the property at an interest rate 0.5 percent above the town’s rate for late taxes.
All deferred taxes and interest for the property must be paid when the taxpayer sells the property, moves, or passes away, according to the statute. At that point, the municipality would have a lien on the property, which would take priority over other liens, and the municipality would recoup all outstanding property taxes.
The topic surfaced in Whitefield in 2016. Voters rejected an ordinance at the annual town meeting in March, 63-53, and again in a referendum vote in June, 150-137. Supporters called for the second vote due to some confusion at the open town meeting.
Wells is the only municipality in Maine with an elderly tax deferral ordinance.
During their April 5 meeting, the Damariscotta selectmen expressed an interest in learning more about what an ordinance would look like, but they also had concerns about the impact the deferrals could have depending on how many people participated in the program.
The selectmen directed Lutkus to gather more information for discussion at a future meeting. The board would have to develop and approve an ordinance by May in order to send it to voters at the annual town meeting in June.
If the board does not approve an ordinance in time for the annual town meeting, selectmen expressed interest in taking a straw poll of residents at the meeting to determine interest in an ordinance.