WESTFORD, MA — State Representative James Arciero and State Senator Edward Kennedy announced in January that Governor Baker has signed House Bill 4469, an Act Authorizing the Town of Westford to Establish a Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption. The measure was proposed by the Westford Senior, Low-income, Disabled Tax Relief Committee (SLIDTR Committee) in order to give many seniors on fixed income some property tax relief.
It was passed by Westford Town Meeting in October 2018 and filed as a home rule petition in the Massachusetts legislature. New state law had to be created to enable Westford to implement this exemption. “There now remains one more step before the adoption of this measure by the Town—it must be approved at the upcoming election in May.” said Andrea Peraner-Sweet, Chair of the Westford Select Board.
The exemption will apply to residents of Westford who:
- Are 65 years of age or older
- Occupy the property as their primary residence
- Have lived in town for at least 10 years
- Have qualified for other means-tested exemptions
- Meet income and asset requirements
Several other provisions provide for the exemptions to not exceed 50% of any individual’s assessed taxes, and to be funded by a small fixed account within the annual town budget. The Westford Board of Assessors will administer the program if accepted by the town, as it does for other real estate tax abatement programs under Chapter 59 of the general laws of the Commonwealth.
Seniors who depend primarily on Social Security have seen their income rise at an average of about 1.3% for the last twelve years. During that period, their costs, including Westford property tax, have increased at several times that rate. Older low-income seniors who retired years ago on fixed incomes and wish to continue living in their homes are increasingly at financial risk.
This exemption creates a small fund to provide extra help to the most vulnerable seniors who have qualified for the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit and other means-tested exemptions, and are still paying over 10% of their income for property tax. It targets limited funds to those who need them most.