By Mayor Brian Arrigo
The City Council unanimously voted in support of my proposal to adopt a 10% residential tax exemption for homes owned and occupied by qualifying senior citizens (65+). The question now goes before the voters in November for ratification.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions to help you learn more about this ballot question. I encourage all residents to vote yes this November, so we can provide some relief to our most vulnerable residents.
- Why is this going on the ballot in November?
The requirement to go to the ballot is per state law, under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59.
Under this state law, in order to adopt this clause (“41 C ½”), first the city council needs to vote for it, then it goes on to the regular November ballot and voters must adopt it. Then, the exemption would go into place at the start of the next fiscal year.
As this goes on to the regular November ballot, it does not create an unnecessary special election. Residents will have the opportunity to vote yes on November 7.
- What would the financial impact be for seniors who qualify?
Seniors who qualify would receive an exemption on their property taxes equal to 10% of the average assessed value of all properties in Revere. In Fiscal Year 2016 this value was $295,076, meaning an exemption of about $29,508 worth of the assessed value of a senior’s property when it is taxed. For instance, if a qualifying resident owns a single-family condominium worth $165,000, they would be taxed based on a value of $135,492.
- What are the guidelines for qualification for the exemption? How does it differ from the current 41C clause Revere has adopted?
Chapter 41 C ½ has no asset limit, and the income limit is much higher than 41 C ($56,000 vs. $29,637).
Commonly held assets like savings accounts, a 401K, pension, insurance policy, or real estate will not impact eligibility for the tax exemption under this program.
We estimate that over 1,000 seniors will qualify for an exemption under 41 C ½ if this question passes. Under the city’s current policy, 41C, only around 70 seniors qualified for an exemption in 2016, due to restrictive income and asset rules.
- Why does the Mayor want to adopt this policy?
Since taking office, Mayor Arrigo has worked to identify options to help residents cope with the cost-of-living increases that are pinching the entire Boston region. After doing due diligence, he believes is an important first step to take.
The real estate market is red hot in Revere right now, and property values continue to increase. As we improve city services, revitalize the city’s economy, and continue to earn praise for our outstanding school system, this trend is likely to continue, which is mostly good news for Revere.
But for the most vulnerable in our community who are on fixed incomes, increasing property values are a double-edged sword.
The residents who most feel this pinch are senior citizens. That’s why Mayor Arrigo targeting this first stage of relief to seniors. A measure of tax relief can help long-time residents stay in their homes even as property values rise.
- How does this ballot question relate to the proposal to adopt a citywide 10% tax exemption for all owner-occupied properties?
Mayor Arrigo’s goal is to adopt a citywide residential tax exemption during his term in office. Adopting chapter 41 C ½ gives Revere the opportunity to phase-in such a policy by starting with the people who need relief the most.
41 C ½ also gives the City time to pilot a verification process to make sure only people who should get this exemption receive it. Boston recently discovered thousands of people who should not have qualified for an exemption received one, costing the city considerable revenue and reducing the benefit to those who rightfully qualified.
A pilot program will help ensure an appropriate verification system is in place. City staff will work with existing databases and documentation provided by applicants for the exemption to ensure the benefit accrues to those who qualify.
When a citywide residential exemption goes into place, 41 C ½ would still exist on top of it, meaning an additional tax break for seniors who own and occupy their homes. This would ensure that seniors still receive the maximum benefit.