Town Council considers changes to elderly tax relief in Wallingford  

WALLINGFORD — Rosemarie Diffley Mulligan has lived in – and paid property taxes to – the town of Wallingford for decades. But now she’s asking the town to help her to be able to stay in her home as it becomes increasingly difficult because of tax increases.

A widow and retired teacher, Mulligan told the Town Council Ordinance Committee Tuesday night that the increasing tax burden is forcing seniors like her to sell their homes and find other housing.

“When revaluations go up, our insurance goes up, our taxes go up,” she told the committee. “The problem is we have limited income. We have a budget we have to live by.”

The committee is asking Mayor William Dickinson Jr. to appoint a five-member panel to research the possibility of increasing the benefits of the town’s Senior Property Tax Relief program.

Wallingford Corporation Counsel Janis Small said to do so, the mayor must appoint a committee to research the options and send its recommendations to the Town Council.

“Most of the income levels (in the current program) are critically low,” Town Councilor Jason Zandri said. Seniors have approached him asking the town implement a tax freeze, he said, that would freeze their property tax at the current amount and allow the town to put a lien on the property in the amount of future increases. Those taxes would be paid when the property is sold.

“We are not wiping out their taxes,” Zandri said. “We are freezing them where they are at now.”

Currently income levels to qualify for senior tax relief are set at $32,300 for a single person and $35,000 for a couple, Zandri said. “These people at these levels already have issues,” he said, noting that other towns set the maximums much higher – in Westport it is $55,000, in Wilton $63,000 and in Stamford, up to $80,000.

Town Councilor Vincent Testa said complaints often center on how long the seniors have been living in Wallingford and paying taxes. and questioned whether that should be a requirement to qualify.

“The theme has been, ‘I’ve lived in town for all these years and paid taxes all these years,’ and that presumes this is for very longtime residents,” he said. “To simply make it by age could be too simplistic. This is a tough one. If they have lived here only a year, we don’t have that justification.”

“It is always a slippery slope when you are going to do things that benefit one group or another,” Zandri said. “We don’t even know what the impact to the budget would be,” he said, which is why a committee needs to be named to research it.

“It sounds like a fair process,” DIckinson said of forming a committee. But it’s also fair to expect blowback from those who just miss qualifying for the benefit, he said. “Anytime you are shifting the tax burden from one group to another, there will be others just above the eligibility level and that person is going to have a problem with it.’

“I’m more curious than dismissive” of the proposed change, said Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni. “I would like to see what this looks like.”

“We are encouraged that you are taking this up tonight,” said resident Richard Moore, who attended the meeting with his wife Sylvia. “We are grateful that at this point you agree to form a committee to find out how it will affect the budget. That is the way to go.”


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