2014-03-21 / Front Page

South Portland sets senior circuit breaker

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council on March 17 unanimously amended the city’s Property Tax Assistance Ordinance to once again authorize a local program created in 2012 to offer rebates to qualifying senior citizens. That program was put in jeopardy last year when the Legislature replaced Maine’s “circuit breaker” program with the new Property Tax Fairness Credit. That change inadvertently wiped out language authorizing local property tax rebate programs, an oversight the Legislature corrected with an emergency vote March 9.

To receive a local tax credit of up to $400 from a $32,735 pool of money authorized by the city council, seniors must be at least 70 years old, must have lived in South Portland for at least the last 12 years, and must already have qualified for a rebate from the state program.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the local refund is based on the state credit on 1040ME for PTFC and applicants must submit a signed copy of this form, or a signed print out, if taxes were filed electronically. The form has a box to check for seniors who otherwise would not be required to file taxes, indicating the form was submitted only for rebate applications, Gailey said.

Noting that the changes are a “first-year test” designed to bring the local ordinance in line with the state program, Gailey said further changes could be in the offing, depending on how the new state program works out.

“We do not know how that is going to affect our program here in South Portland,” Gailey told the council. “So, we may be before you again to offer additional tweaks to make sure the residents of our city are well served by this program.”

The new state program reduces the maximum credit from $1,600 to $300 for individuals and $400 for couples, while also reducing the maximum qualifying income from $86,600 to $40,000.

“There are a lot of people who are impacted in a negative way by the state Legislature and would have been impacted here as well if we had not been able to continue this program, so I am happy to support this,” said Councilor Melissa Linscott.

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