Nearly 900 seniors in Portland could receive property tax relief under a proposal now headed for final approval.

On Thursday, a City Council committee endorsed a proposal from Mayor Ethan Striming to provide rebates to homeowners and renters over the age of 62.

Finance Committee members voted unanimously to send it to the full council.

“I’m very pleased we are joining the many municipalities around us who have already put this into place,” Strimling said Friday. “Our seniors need this and deserve it.”

Targeted tax relief for Portland’s seniors has been a goal of city leaders for the last 15 years.

Portland previously attempted a similar program in 2003, but it was deemed unconstitutional by the courts because there was no state law allowing it. The Legislature has since passed enabling legislation.

The council will discuss the plan next month and could vote on the program as soon as Nov. 6, although the first tax rebates would not be sent out until sometime in 2019.

Portland’s Senior Tax Equity Program, or P-STEP, is modeled after a similar state program.

To participate in the local program, seniors must already be eligible for the State of Maine’s Property Tax Fairness Program. That program is open to people with a maximum adjusted gross income of between $33,333 and $53,000, depending on the size of the household. And property taxes paid must be more than 6 percent of the household income, while rents must exceed 40 percent of household income.

P-STEP would provide tax rebates of up to $600 for residents between the ages of 62 and 65, while those over 65 could receive up to $900. Those maximum amounts match what is available under the state program.

The program could cost $250,000 a year. That estimate assumes that 90 percent of the 889 eligible seniors apply for and receive the benefit.

The mayor’s office estimates the average benefit to qualified Portland seniors would be $197 per renter and $324 per household.

Strimling said City Manager Jon Jennings will be tasked with including funding for the program in the next city budget.

Similar tax relief programs exist in South Portland, Scarborough, Cumberland, Kennebunkport, Berwick, Harpswell, Kittery and York, the mayor’s office said.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings