Property taxes frozen for aged

The Board of Aldermen approved a property tax freeze for certain homeowners aged 70 and over Monday night.

The bill allows elderly residents who have lived in the city at least 10 years and have a maximum income of $50,000 to freeze their taxes at the 2006 rate. Those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would be eligible for a tax deferral, meaning that back taxes on the property would have to be repaid with interest when the house is sold or transferred. A maximum of $2,000 can be deferred annually, while anything above the cap will be due at the end of the year.

“We all hear all too often about seniors choosing between prescription drugs and food,” Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino said. “We don’t want seniors to be taxed out of their homes.”

The ordinance was unanimously approved with an amendment emphasizing the importance of outreach to seniors so they understand the ramifications of the decision. Ward 11 Alderman Robert Lee, who spoke at length at the meeting about the importance of educating the elderly, said he was especially concerned that seniors qualifying for the deferral realize that taxes will eventually have to be paid.

“I don’t want to see any surprises down the road for seniors,” he said.

The board also approved an amendment to the Code of General Ordinances that would require private sanitation workers to begin trash collection downtown no earlier than 5 a.m., and that collection in the surrounding city begin no earlier than 6 a.m.

The board commended the results of a recent public forum in which residents tired of being awoken by early morning trash collection were able to work out their differences with sanitation workers hoping to get an early-morning start and city officials hoping to avoid trash pick-ups during rush hour downtown.

“At the end people walked out smiling,” Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances Clark said. “It’s an example of our city at its best.”

Ward 10 Alderman Edward Mattison also discussed assertions by some trash collectors that they would not abide by the new ordinance. He encouraged the public and fellow aldermen to report workers seen on the streets before the newly mandated time.

Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah noted that only one of the 11 trash collectors in attendance actually lived within city limits. Shah was met with applause from the few people gathered in the gallery when he said, “If you don’t live here you can’t make policy here.”

In response to recent discontent over the Board of Zoning Appeal’s approval of a new Dunkin’ Donuts in the West River neighborhood, the board discussed the process of notifying residents of upcoming hearings. Shah said that currently only property owners in the area are notified about the hearings, and that the 70 percent of New Haven residents who rent property are left in the dark.

“I hope the city of New Haven does a better job.” Shah said. “People who rent have a right to be notified.”

In other action, the board appointed 12 residents to various commissions and reappointed another 10 individuals.

The board concluded the evening with smiles as Ward 13 Alderman Alexander Rhodeen’s announcement of his engagement was met with a chorus of cooing, applause and congratulations.

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