EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 6, 2012

Mayor offers elders jobs to work off tax bills

Proposes increase in money saved by working

By Shawn Regan sregan@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — HAVERHILL — If you have don’t have much money and are over age 65, Mayor James Fiorentini wants to put you to work answering phones at City Hall, cataloging books at the library or lending a hand at the Citizens Center for minimum wage.

But instead of receiving a paycheck, your property tax bill will be reduced by $8.50 for each hour worked.

Fiorentini, who started the senior citizen tax relief program in 1997 when he was a city councilor, is proposing to increase the amount eligible senior citizens can work off their property tax bill from $695 to $1,031 per year.

To qualify, senior citizens must have an income of less than $25,000 per year and have less than $50,000 in assets.

The proposal, which must be approved by City Council before it can go into effect, would allow seniors to work up to 125 hours in the fiscal year that ends next June. The current rules for the program cap the hours at 95.

The mayor said the initiative has two purposes: To give low-income retirees a break on their real estate taxes and to provide an incentive for more of them to volunteer at the library, City Hall and Citizens Center, each of which is dealing with depleted staffs due to budget cuts. He stressed the volunteers aren’t allowed to take work from union workers, so they are used in non-union offices or to supplement work already being done by union workers.

Fiorentini is also proposing a change in the program that would allow an “approved representative” to work in the place of a senior citizen who is unable to work due to old age or poor health.

A press release from the mayor’s office stated, “Pay earned in the program will be applied to real estate taxes of the resident on record of the noted address in December as an abatement in the January real estate tax bill.”

“I encourage seniors that qualify for this tax incentive to take advantage of this initiative,” Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini said an elderly woman volunteers in his office to receive the tax break.

“She does a great job answering the phone and helping with requests and complaints from constituents,” the mayor said.