As your state senator, advocating for children, seniors and veterans is a priority for me, and will continue to be during this legislative session. In this update, I’ll be focusing on Maine seniors, especially those who have been struggling with the burden of paying ever-increasing property taxes. Two factors contribute to this problem.

Anne Carney

First, property values are skyrocketing, as we’ve seen in the recent revaluation in South Portland.

Second, many seniors live on fixed, stable incomes like retirement savings and Social Security, even as other expenses increase. In fact, 56.4 percent of Maine seniors who receive Social Security payments get – on average – $11,964 annually, or less than $1,000 a month.

Given these challenges, I was proud to support my colleague Sen. Donna Bailey’s successful effort to revive the State Property Tax Deferral Program to provide property tax relief for eligible seniors. While this program won’t solve the problem of affordable housing for every senior in Maine, I’m confident that it will ease property tax burdens for those who qualify. Here is an overview of the program to help you decide whether you could benefit from the program, or might want to pass this information along to a friend or family member.

First you might ask: What is the State Property Tax Deferral Program anyway?

It’s a program that allows certain individuals to postpone payment of the property taxes on their homesteads. When a property owner participates in the program, the state makes property tax payments to the city or town on behalf of the owner. That way, the city or town can have stable tax revenue and participating homeowners can have money in their pockets for food, medications and other needs.

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Since the program is similar to an ongoing loan, the state places a lien on the homestead as security for the property taxes paid, plus some interest. When the property owner passes away, moves, sells the property or moves the dwelling (like a mobile or floating home) out of Maine, the deferred tax and interest from the lien will be repaid to the state by the individual or their estate. In this way, the program sustains itself.

Next, you might ask: Who is eligible for the program?

The applicant must be at least 65 years old or unable to work due to a disability. Also, they must have an income of less than $40,000 and liquid assets of less than $50,000 (or $75,000 for a joint application). For applicants who have disabilities, the applicant must have been determined by a state or federal government agency to have a permanent and total impairment or condition that prevents them from being employed. Finally, since the goal is to keep seniors in their homes and communities, the applicant must own and occupy the property as their principal residence and be receiving a homestead exemption on the property.

I hope your final questions is: How do I apply?

To apply, please contact your local municipal assessor between Jan. 1 and April 1, 2022. Here is their contact information: South Portland assessor, 207-767-7604; Cape Elizabeth assessor, 207-799-1619; and Scarborough assessor, 207-730-4060.

The online application is available at www.maine.gov/revenue/tax-return-forms-property-tax. The assessor will certify some information and then send the application to Maine Revenue Services for final review. If Maine Revenue Services denies the application, then you can file an appeal of the denial with the State Board of Property Tax Review within 30 days of receiving the notice.

If you have questions, please contact the Property Tax Division at 207- 624-5600 or email [email protected] As always, you can also contact me if you need assistance at 207-287-1515 or [email protected]

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough.

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