FALMOUTH — The town’s Senior Tax Assistance Program has more than double the number of applicants so far this year compared to 2018.

This year, $50,000 has been allotted to tax breaks for seniors. During the first year, 29 seniors, who had to make less than $30,000 a year, were refunded about $20,500. That represented just 14% of the eligible population. In the second year, the number of seniors using the program benefited 77 residents, awarding a total of $49,400, or an average of $650.

“At the time we started the program, we estimated roughly 100-200 homes would participate,” Town Finance Director Pete McHugh said. “Based on last year’s applications, we feel that 100-200 may be a decent estimate of the size of the under $40,000 earning households in Falmouth.  It will be interesting to see the 2020 Census data when it becomes available sometime next year.”

“These times especially are tougher, that’s a challenge and seniors are most at risk since they are not in the time of their life where they can go out and get a fresh new job,” Councilor Hope Cahan said. “We are glad to see more use the program.”

To be eligible, applicants must be at least 62 years old and have an annual household income of less than $40,000.  The maximum recipients can receive is $750. The deadline to apply is Oct. 8, and refunds will be given on or before Nov. 17, according to the town website. The income requirements were increased after the first year from a maximum of $30,000, following a low number of applicants.

Falmouth’s tax rate has increased over $4.70 in the last decade and is now $17.05 per $1,000 of assessed real estate valuation. Municipal taxes make up $3.30 of that, while school taxes are $12.98 and the county tax is 77 cents. The rate in 2010 was $12.35, with town taxes at $3, school taxes at $8.81 and the county tax at 54 cents. The tax bill for a median-priced $400,000 home is $5,596.

While this year’s $39.5 million budget has no tax increase, it shows a $789,447 increase in expenditures. Prior to cuts made due to the pandemic, the school budget was set for a $1.5 million increase that would have added 30 cents to the tax rate.

A 72-year-old local beneficiary, who lives alone and asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, told The Forecaster her 2019 tax bill was $2,200. While she’s working part-time, it’s getting tougher to stay in Falmouth.

“I’ve been here 30 years,” she said. “I am worried all the time about having to leave my house. A lot of seniors here are struggling to come up with tax money with all of their other expenses. … I got $650 from it, but I think for this to really help, covering half the tax bill is needed. It helps some, but it’s still a struggle.”

She added: “My house is cheap, but now I can’t even afford to fix it up. Seniors should not have to be living through this.”

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