Friday, November 8, 2019

Fighting for lower property taxes

By Senator Bill Diamond

It’s something I hear all the time — at community events, football games, when I’m checking out at  
the grocery store — people want to know what I’m doing to lower their property taxes.

The truth is high property taxes hurt all of us: They stifle business growth and drive up rents. They make it harder for people to buy their first home and start building equity and credit. They are an additional burden on family budgets that are already stretched thin. Seniors on fixed incomes can find themselves in a position where they can’t afford to keep living in the home they’ve been in their whole lives.

It’s just not fair.

Of course, there has to be a balance. Towns and cities need revenue to provide services like police, fire departments, ambulance, road maintenance, schools and more, and by law they have very few options outside of property taxes for raising that revenue. But there are things the state can do to ease this burden on property taxpayers.

This year, in the Legislature, we took some steps to tackle high property taxes. Specifically, we passed a bipartisan budget, without raising income or sales taxes, that provides $130 million in new and expanded property tax relief programs.

Most homeowners are probably familiar with the Homestead Exemption program, which allows qualifying homeowners to reduce the assessed value of their home by $20,000 when they pay their property taxes, in order to lower their overall property tax bill. It’s available to anyone who has lived in the home they own for more than a year, and all you have to do to sign up is fill out a short application at your town office. This year, the Legislature increased the deduction amount from $20,000 to $25,000, which takes effect for property tax years starting on or after April 1, 2020. We also authorized a $100 refund from the state to be paid out to anyone who qualified for the Homestead Exemption on or before April 1, 2019. Those checks will be sent out in January and February.

The Property Tax Fairness Credit is another program from the state that provides relief to certain low-income property taxpayers. The program allows folks who qualify to receive a refundable income tax credit for the property taxes they paid in a given year, up to $750, or $1,200 for qualifying seniors over the age of 65. In the latest budget, we expanded the eligibility of this program to cover more people. That change takes effect in 2020, so you should check to see if you qualify when you file your income taxes for that year.

Finally, in the latest budget, the legislature also increased the amount of money paid directly to towns and cities through revenue sharing and school funding, to help them cover their costs and take some of that burden off property taxpayers.

These changes move us in the right direction, and I promise to keep fighting for lower property taxes in coming years.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my office with any questions, comments or concerns. You can call (207) 287-1515 or email me at It’s a pleasure to serve as your state senator.

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