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Article to Assist Vulnerable Populations with Real Estate Taxes on Mendon Warrant

During the March 21 Special Town Meeting, an article on the draft warrant is seeking approval from residents to set up a fund that will assist low income elderly homeowners and disabled home owners with their real estate taxes.

The article on the draft warrant, Article 16, is seeking residents' approval to accept Massachusetts General Law Chapter 60, Section 3D. Accepting the state law permits the town to set up the tax aid fund but also designates a place on tax bills for residents to voluntarily pledge or donate an amount not less than $1 to contribute to the fund. A separate form included with tax bills asking for the donations could also be mailed instead. Those monies collected will to be used to defray tax bills of certain elderly and disabled citizens in town.

After the override was passed for the Mendon Upton Regional School District last year, the Board of Selectmen voted to form the Taxation Aid Committee. It was Chair of the Committee, Alejna Brugos, who was instrumental in bringing the initiative forward. "One of the objections to the override that I personally took to heart was that it would be very hard for some senior citizens on fixed incomes to afford the sudden increase," she said. "Even an increase of $10 a month could be a burden to someone whose income was barely covering expenses. With the override, Mendon homeowners, even those who had been in their homes for decades and were now retired, would be suddenly required to pay on average $40 more a month."

Brugos said she began researching how other towns addressed this issue and discovered many communities have a donation-based fund set up to provide real estate tax relief to lower income senior home owners and disabled home owners. Through her research, she came across MGL Chapter 60, Section 3D and brought it to School Committee member Diane Duncan and Selectman Rich Scholfied, who believed the idea had merit.

According to Treasurer/Collector and Committee member Linda Hawkes, should the article pass, the Committee will need to finalize guidelines concerning eligibility and the application process and who specifically of the senior and disabled population may benefit from the program. "We'll lean on the Assessor's Office and the Senior Center to identify those who may benefit the most," she said.

Another aspect to resolve is how the donated funds will be paid out. Hawkes said one idea may be to notify approved residents the amount they qualified for and then reduce that amount from their tax bill.

Brugos gave kudos to the entire Committee for the compassion and commitment to the issue. Other members include Dick Skinner and Assessor Ken O'Brien,

If the program moves forward, Hawkes said the voluntary donation could be included on the tax bills that go out in June, however it may be some time before the monies can be disbursed. "It may take a while to bulk up the fund," she said.

The Special Town Meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Miscoe Hill School. A draft of the warrant show 20 articles in total will be voted.


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