After an unprecedented rise in property taxes in recent years, the city is likely to pass a proposal to reduce tax contributions from its senior veterans.
The Tax Abatement Committee of the Board of Aldermen met Tuesday to discuss the fiscal ramifications of the proposal, which would provide veterans who fall into a specified income bracket and age range with a tax exemption of up to $10,000, or 10 percent of their property value. The committee passed the policy unanimously, after adding an amendment making it a conditional one-year trial.
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The proposal joins the policy brought to Mayor John DeStefano Jr. last week by Ward 25 Alderwoman Ina Silverman and Ward 14 Alderwoman Elizabeth Sturgis-Pascale calling for a similar reduction in property taxes for the city’s senior citizens.
Ward 23 Alderwoman Elizabeth McCormack said that, based on estimates about the number of veterans who will take advantage of the proposal, the aldermen do not expect the policy will significantly hurt the city’s budget. But the amendment is a practical measure that would enable the committee to reassess the proposal once the city has seen its economic impact, Sturgis-Pascale said.
“There’s no way to accurately predict the ultimate revenue loss this proposal will bring,” Sturgis-Pascale said. “The veterans are an honorable community, and we want to be able to protect them, but we don’t know for sure if we can afford it. This way, we can built upon it or amend it, just in case things go wrong.”
But Ward 11 Alderman Robert Lee, who proposed the policy and has been researching and lobbying for it for two years, said the amendment “did not make sense,” adding that the city should either support the proposal completely or not at all. New Haven should get fully on board with towns such as Seymour, Conn., he said, which already has a tax reduction for veterans in place.
“It’s like waving a carrot in front of [veterans’] faces, and then snatching it away from them,” Lee said. “These people have put their lives on the line for this country. How can we cut them short?”
Lee said the state government will reimburse New Haven for taxes that would have been paid by veterans with an annual income below $28,000, so the only revenue lost would be from veterans from an narrow income bracket.
But Ward 28 Alderman Mordechai Sandman said if every veteran in the city were to avail themselves of the policy, nearly half a million dollars in revenue would be lost. A more realistic figure — based on the likelihood that some veterans would not qualify for the exemption or not apply at all — is in the order of $30,000 to $50,000, he said. Because the policy could have a range of fiscal outcomes — as these vastly differing figures show — he said the aldermen cannot be sure it will be adopted for the long term.
“We know it’s the right thing to do, and we really want this to work,” Sandman said. “But we’ve got to be responsible about it. New Haven has a tight fiscal climate.”
If the proposal — which will be brought before of the Board of Aldermen in the upcoming weeks — is passed, it will be implemented for the year 2008-09.