The August tax mailing includes a notice of a new state law that exempts certain property owners from future tax increases. All residential property owners over 65 who have owned a qualifying homestead for 10 years can apply for this tax relief program annually. It went into effect Aug. 8 and those who wish to apply have until Dec. 1 to do so.
This is good news for seniors whose taxes are rising above their ability to pay. But it applies to all seniors having 10 years of homestead ownership, irrespective of their ability to pay taxes now and in the future.
We believe that the Maine Legislature made a serious error in not specifying that this tax benefit would apply only to seniors within certain income limits, and urge the Legislature to correct the regressive feature of this law in its next session.
Because nearly 37% of Harpswell’s residents are over 65, the law will likely have unintended consequences that harm the fabric of our community. If everyone over 65 who qualifies were to take advantage of this program, a substantial portion of our property taxes will remain frozen at 2022 levels.
While the legislation promises that the state will reimburse municipalities for lost taxes, it may or may not fully do so. Consequently, the tax burden would shift to younger working families for whom living in Harpswell is already an expensive option, along with 65-and-older residents who may not meet the homestead criteria.
Harpswell property taxpayers can prevent the negative impacts of this law by honoring our proud heritage of “neighbor looking after neighbor.” In this spirit, we encourage the following:
To those seniors for whom a limited tax bill is a necessity, please take advantage of the new state program, which supports your ability to remain in your homes.
To those seniors who qualify for this tax break and do not need it, please consider continuing to pay your full annual property tax by not applying for the subsidy offered by this program.
Meanwhile, the Select Board continues our commitment to maintain a reasonable tax rate for the town of Harpswell with the valuable input of the administration and Budget Advisory Committee.
Harpswell Select Board
Kevin E. Johnson, Chair
Jane G. Covey
David I. Chipman