WESTBROOK — Seniors who missed the application deadline for the city’s property tax break for 2018 will have another opportunity as early as January when the  application process is reopened.

Dena Lebeda, Westbrook’s tax collector, hopes more people will apply for the program. Chance Viles / American Journal

The tax break, which was created this year, is set to reopen to use some of the leftover funds. Initially, $50,000 was budgeted for the program for 2018 rebates, but only about $22,000 was claimed. The city wants to pay out the $28,000 balance before budgeting funds for next year’s 2019 rebates.

Mayor Mike Foley, in his inaugural address, said the local program can “be the difference that allows someone to stay in their home.”

To be eligible, seniors must be 70 or older, have lived in Westbrook for the past 10 years and have applied for and received the state’s property tax break for seniors.

“We paired ours with the state program because it makes it incredibly easy to apply,” said Dena Lebeda, the city’s tax collector.

Seniors applying for the state program can also retroactively apply for the previous three years’ worth of tax breaks if they had missed it.

“It really is in their best interest, we had someone come in that saved over $1,000 by going back t0 2016 in the state program and pairing it with ours,” Lebeda said. Residents are not able to retroactively apply to previous years for the city’s own program, as it had just started.

“We only had about 72 people apply for our program,” Lebeda said. “We know that well over 130 seniors received the state program, though, meaning they would also receive ours, but didn’t apply because they may not have known about it.”

Once a senior has applied and received the state tax break, they can take that information to Lebeda’s City Hall office to apply for the city’s program. The General Assistance office handles a lot of the tax filing that seniors may need to do before applying for the city program, Lebeda said.

Lebeda and Foley said as soon as a few administrative details are taken care of, the program will reopen.

“We are also looking at lowering the age requirement so that we can help more people,” Lebeda said.

For more information, seniors are encouraged to reach out to City Hall, where the assistants know the program, and Lebeda’s office is located in case of any questions they cannot answer. The program is currently planned to reopen sometime in January.

“It’s about helping people feel like they can afford to live in their home, and as our population continues to age, this is something that will be more important to community members in helping them continue to afford the property taxes and their expenses,” Foley said.

“We are in the process of developing some other areas to help seniors and affordability as well, as well as looking to refine and improve the property tax refund program in future budgets.”

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