By Samuel Bacherman
BU News Service
This story was previously published in the Belmont Citizen-Herald.
BELMONT — Town Meeting members approved reducing the interest rate for eligible residents who are involved with the property tax deferral program at a special Town Meeting Nov. 13. Only needing a majority vote to pass, an overwhelming 216 voted in favor of the motion while 21 opposed.
As a result of the vote, the rate for eligible seniors will now be reduced from 8 to 4.5 percent.
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Adam Dash presented the article and voiced his support of approving the motion. He emphasized there will be no risk to Belmont, since the town won’t lose any money because it will be given back over time with interest.
“Seems like a win-win for everybody,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to help low-income seniors stay in their homes and stay in the town.”
Dash also said he hopes this article will increase the number of residents benefiting from tax deferral. Since there are only 13 people currently using the tax deferral program, Dash believes now is an “appropriate” time for this article, especially since Town Meeting members had just approved the new Belmont High School proposal worth over $295 million dollars.
Town Treasurer Floyd Carman, however, did not support this article. He believes there is a larger benefit to people who live outside of town, like the children of elderly Belmont residents.
“We are deferring their taxes, not cutting checks,” he said. “The money goes to people that lived outside of Belmont.”
Roy Epstein, chairman of the Warrant Committee, acknowledged the Warrant Committee unanimously supported the proposed reduction in the property tax rate because so few residents participate in the program. But Epstein cautioned that if the program expanded exponentially, it could suddenly open up a million dollar cash flow problem for the town.
Town Meeting Member Donald Mercier was also opposed to the tax reduction, saying the tax reduction doesn’t really help anyone.
“There are other proposals that will reduce taxes,” he said. “You don’t know whether they are multi millionaires, $20,000 over 10 years isn’t much.”
Stephen Rosales, Town Meeting member and former selectman, felt the arguments against the article did not represent the Belmont he knows and loves. Stating many elderly residents live alone and have limited income, he strongly believes the town made the right decision on Tuesday.
“Not everything is economic,” he said during the meeting. “The town should not make money off of these people. All of us here could be one of these people some day.”
In an interview after the conclusion of the Town Meeting, Rosales said Belmont works to take care of their own and to help people stay in town.
“I think it’s a question of respect and dignity for the elders,” he said.
The measure is set to take effect for those who qualify on July 1, 2019, for fiscal year 2020