CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The Town Board Monday recently decided to give some help to seniors who live in town and are registered in the partial senior citizen exemption for real property program.
After holding a public hearing on Jan. 2, the board approved allowing seniors in the program who are suffering from a serious illness or a death in the family and find they cannot make the annual March 1 filing deadline, an extended period of time to file the necessary documents with the town assessor.
Those seniors who fit either of the two situations will now be allowed to file for the partial tax exemption up until Grievance Day, which is the fourth Tuesday in May of each year.
What is commonly referred to as the Senior Citizen Exemption is a partial benefit program that allows seniors who are 65 or older and have a yearly income of less than $37,400, a reduction in their property taxes by reducing the assessment of their homes.
According to the state Tax and Finance website, local governments and school districts can opt to grant a reduction on the amount of property taxes paid by qualifying senior citizens. This is accomplished by reducing the taxable assessment of the senior's home by as much as 50 percent.
To qualify, seniors generally must be 65 years of age or older and meet certain income limitations and other requirements. For the 50 percent exemption, the law allows each county, city, town, village, or school district to set the maximum income limit at any figure between $3,000 and $29,000.
Municipalities have the further option of giving exemptions of less than 50 percent to seniors whose incomes are more than $29,000. Under this option, called the sliding-scale option, owners can have a yearly income as high as $37,399.99 and get a five percent exemption in places that are using the maximum limit.
This program is not to be confused with the state’s STAR (School Tax Relief) program, which is a separate program.
“This is a local option, a convenience, that I’m doing to help seniors,” said Clifton Park Assessor Walter Smead. “It’s nothing new. Every municipality in the state has different options to do different things.”
To qualify for the Senior Citizen Exemption, seniors must have their documentation into Smead’s office by March 1. If, however they have a serious illness or a death in the family that they find is preventing them from making the March 1 deadline, they can now request the extension.
“As they get older seniors have more medical issues to deal with, either their own medical issues or ones with family members. I’ve never needed it, but I want to be prepared in case it happens. It’s better to give them the opportunity if something serious happens. This gives them options. It’s one less thing they’ll have to worry about.”
Smead said about 200 town residents are registered for the Senior Citizen Exemption and acknowledged the senior population is expanding in the community.
At Monday’s meeting, he reiterated why he put the request forward and the fact that it has nothing to do with news reports of changes to the STAR program, which has been in print media stories for the past week.
“This is a separate issue altogether,” he said.
Town Supervisor Philip Barrett agreed with Smead that making the change would help seniors.
“I think we should take this step to allow seniors who are eligible for these tax reductions to give them as much time as possible,” Barrett said. “To have them lose out because they’re ill just isn’t fair. I’m glad we’re extending the deadline in those circumstances.”
When Town Attorney Tom McCarthy asked Smead if the extension could be continued upon the death of the applicant at the request of the estate, Smead said it could not.
“In the case of death, the applicant is no longer entitled to the exemption,” he said.
Though the Town of Halfmoon has approximately the same number of homeowners registered in the program, Halfmoon Town Assessor Jo Ann Smith said the Town Board in Halfmoon has yet to take the issue up as legislative action.