Raymond Community News


Raymond Town Office Offers Help for Elderly Exemption Applicants
By Leslie O’Donnell   12-05-18

In his first days as Raymond’s new town manager, Joe Ilsley was asked to tie up loose ends and to meet with residents who had sought help from the Town in the past but had not received a response. Among those residents were a husband and wife who would have qualified for the Town’s property tax exemption for the elderly if it had been adjusted to reflect the cost of living.

“Then we started seeing more and more residents in the same condition, so we looked at when the last time was that the elderly exemption had been raised,” he said.

That turned out to be 2007.

“This is about taking care of people,” Ilsley said of the elderly exemption. “And there are a lot of seniors who are eligible for the exemption and don’t know about it or don’t apply for it.”

At the same time as Ilsley was encountering seniors who were faced with having to choose between paying their taxes or buying medicine and food, the Town had 53 properties heading into tax deed status because their owners had not paid taxes for three years.

“We looked at 53 properties that were in their deed year and many of these properties were owned by elderly who just missed the elderly exemption because it was never adjusted for the cost of living,” Ilsley said.

Ilsley created a back tax payment plan –  signing contracts with the majority of those 53 residents that promise the payback of nearly $600,000 in back taxes over a specified time frame. The contracts also have the current tax bill built into the payment plan to keep the residents current – and to avoid transferring the tax burden to their fellow residents.

The contracts are expected to generate an additional $140,000 in new revenue for the Town. And as a result of this new program, none of these properties were deeded to the Town, Ilsley said.

Ilsley also found that many of those residents qualified for the elderly exemption – and would likely not have been late in tax payments if they had applied for it.  “While we were doing their payment plans for back taxes, we filed elderly exemptions for them as well,” he said.

 “It’s a shockingly large number of people who have back taxes to pay who qualify for the elderly exemption but never applied for it,” Ilsley said, noting that could be because they did not know about it, feared the paperwork required, or did not want to accept “welfare.”

“When people call it ‘welfare,’ our response is that these people have paid their taxes all these years and that helped others in need, and now it’s our time to take care of the elderly in Raymond,” Ilsley said.

“We need to make the elderly aware that this program is out there, and let them know Town Hall is here to help,” he said.

Ilsley said one of the saddest aspects of the current situation is the number of elderly homeowners who would have qualified for the elderly exemption if the Town had kept up with the cost of living regarding income limits. “If the exemption had kept up with the cost of living, they would not have faced losing their home,” he said.

“These are people who are not looking for handouts – these are people who have always paid their taxes – for decades. They haven’t missed a tax bill in 30 years,” he said.

For seniors, Ilsley explained, pointing to his research, “we came across a data point which discussed the increased economic impact of being elderly - this analysis suggested the elderly can expect to pay $1,500 more per year in expenses versus younger demographic groups.” Not only is their fixed income lower than when they were working, but the cost of living is higher for seniors because of the price of medications and the need to hire out work they would have been able to do themselves when they were younger, Ilsley said.

Ilsley said the Town recommends adjusting the 2007 warrant article to “bring the thresholds up to the current economic levels and allow the program to provide the relief to our elderly, which was the original intent.”

Saying the 2007 warrant article has lost value because the income limits never kept pace with the cost of living, the selectmen are placing an article on the Town warrant in March that would increase the elderly exemption income limits. “And we plan to bring a warrant article forward each year to adjust the elderly exemption to reflect the cost of living,” he added.

Ilsley said Raymond is the fourth most restrictive town in Rockingham County in income eligibility for the elderly exemption. He explained that means Raymond’s income limits are currently so low that they limit the number of elderly living on the edge of poverty who qualify for the exemption.

Net income limits currently are $27,000 for a single person or $37,000 for a couple, and net assets cannot exceed $70,000, excluding the value of the applicant’s residence.

The new warrant article would raise the net income limits to $30,350 for singles and $41,150 for a married couple. The $70,000 net asset figure would not change.

The current elderly exemption in Raymond for a person age 65 through 74, based on assessed value, is $50,000. It is $55,000 for a person age 75 to 80, and $65,000 for a person age 80 or above.

“So our warrant article would readjust the elderly exemption to capture the cost of living rise over the past 11 years,” Ilsley said, adding that the numbers should have been adjusted by 1.6 percent to 1.8 percent per year since 2007. “If I can get the limits up to where they should be, there would be a lot more elderly in town that we can take care of.”

Meanwhile, residents over age 65 who would like to apply for an elderly exemption are welcome to contact Community Development Assistant Donna Giberson at Town Hall, 895-7017. She will explain the paperwork needed and will help fill out the application if the residents wish.

Application deadline is April 15 of each year for that year’s taxes. Residents receiving the exemption do not need to fill out a new application each year, but Giberson noted that a recheck is done every five years to determine whether the resident remains eligible going forward.

“Don’t let the paperwork scare you,” Ilsley said. “We’d like to do it for everyone who needs it. We’re fulfilling the will of the people of Raymond who passed that warrant article in 2007 – now we just need to capture the past 11 years so we can help more people.”

And for those who fear that more people taking the elderly exemption will shift a large portion of the tax burden to everyone else, Ilsley said most of the people who are eligible have home values that are less or equal to the exemption amount, meaning the Town receives minimal taxes from them anyway.

The Town currently has 93 residents receiving elderly exemptions, a number that has remained stable over the past three years. The current impact on the tax rate is 19 cents per $1,000.

Editor’s note: Raymond Area News does not take a position, for or against, on the elderly exemption warrant article.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raymond Town Office
4 Epping Street

895-4735

Raymond NH Website

 


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