Look, I’m no tax rebel. I’m a middle-aged, midde-class homeowner with kids who is ready to chip in my fair share of what is clearly an outrageously high property tax tab. I can’t afford it all, but somehow I will, because I want my kids to have an education in this great town and I want to live in a place that doesn’t cheap out at every opportunity. West Hartford is a community that’s willing to pay for a range of services and programs for the common good, most of which my family will never use at all. I’m fine with that.
But the idea raised this week of freezing property taxes for some seniors, including many with vast resources of their own, is just plain wrong.
The plan on the table, which is possible thanks to yet another feel-good but irresponsible state law, is that anyone who is over 70, occupies his or her own house and has lived in the state for at least a year can freeze his or her property taxes at this year’s level as long as income limits are met. The elderly homeowner’s income must not exceed $28,800 for an individual or $35,300 for a married couple (numbers that will rise annually as the OMB dictates).
Now I have no problem with waiving tax increases completely for seniors whose income is that low. Just waive it and forget it. The rest of us can pick up the extra tab for truly struggling old people. That’s fine.
Where the problem comes in is that the town has no plans to also look at assets. So if I own a house at the shore, a condo in Florida and a house in West Hartford and I meet the income guidelines, I get a freeze. Nobody cares if I have an IRA with $200,000 in it. Nobody looks to see if I own a million shares of Aetna stock. Nobody asks if I have a stamp collection worth half a million. That’s CRAZY. There is no way this plan should ignore assets and look only at income.
This whole idea has been gunned down at the ballot box in Southingon and rejected in a number of other towns because it’s either unfair or too cumbersome to be worth doing.
I imagine that’s the case here, too.
But town officials should not think that a freeze that ignores assets is going to fly. There are some very wealthy people who don’t have much in the way of income. They should not get a break at my expense.