West Roxbury -Looking to help out elderly residents saddled with rising property taxes, the city will offer tax abatements in exchange for volunteerism.
The crux of the pilot program is that 50 elders will be able to work a maximum of 100 hours and earn up to a $750 tax credit for their third-quarter property tax bill.
The program was initially introduced by City Councilor Rob Consalvo, and has been lauded by elderly organizations and Mayor Thomas Menino.
“The purpose of the program is twofold,” said Consalvo. “It offers a modest property tax relief to elders who participate [in the program] … It will continue to foster the spirit of volunteerism. It also allows senior citizens to be involved in the civic life of the city. We will benefit as a city because we know how much seniors have to give. Also they will benefit by being active in society and engaging in life and we will benefit from the wealth of their knowledge.”
Consalvo said he likes the bigger theme of the pilot program of expanding volunteerism, which will help the city.
Kaysea Cole, deputy commissioner of communication and policy for Boston’s Elderly Commission, said as a pilot program there would be a cap of 50 residents to start, with hopes that it will be expanded.
Elderly residents who own their homes would be divided among the city’s many departments. Cole has been talking with the libraries, schools, community centers, assessing department and city councilor offices to place volunteers in those spots.
Volunteers would receive $7.50 of tax credit for every hour they volunteer.
“Our hopes are that it will help people who need the most help [with property tax relief] and we are hoping [to get] people who don’t qualify for other tax exemptions,” said Cole.
Dale Mitchell, executive director for Ethos, a not-for-profit that provides a range of city-supported home and community-based services to disabled and homebound senior citizens, was excited about the program.
“I hope it’s very successful so the city can expand it to include more elders and offer benefits to city-funded nonprofits like Ethos,” said Mitchell. “I think the only challenge is getting the word out so people know about it.”
Mitchell said there are two things that seniors always deal with: coping with high property taxes and isolation.
The latter often occurs due to the first if a senior can no longer afford their home and is forced to retreat to a nursing home.
“That destabilizes their whole life by losing their community connections … We always want more opportunities to make elders available and to get them out of the house, be around people and contribute to society,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell said he expects a lot of interest in the program from West Roxbury seniors.
Ann Hartstein, executive director for the Massachusetts Association of Older Americans, would also like to see the program expanded to include as many seniors as possible.
Hartstein noted that other communities throughout the state have adopted similar programs.
“We also know it helps people understand government more. It introduces seniors to the workings of their government, and it really helps them understand how the government runs. And the people they work with understand how able and helpful elders are,” said Hartstein. “It’s more that elders think that there is a lot of waste in government, and now they see how hard government employees work.”
Want more information?
For more information about the elder volunteer property tax program, please contact Kaysea Cole at 617-635-3244.
For an application to be sent by mail, please call the city of Boston Tax Payer Referral and Assistance Center at 617-635-4287.
By David Ertischek, GateHouse News Service