EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 22, 2013

Tax exemption, ambulance issues headed to Pelham voters

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — The 2014 town warrant is taking shape.

Voters will consider revising the elderly property tax exemption, increasing the ambulance fund and putting more than $250,000 into town roads.

Still to be determined are whether voters will see proposed contracts for police and firefighters.

Selectmen recently reviewed warrant articles.

The board is supporting a proposal to reform the elderly exemption.

It would replace the 100 percent exemption for seniors over age 75 who meet financial qualifications.

“The problem is we have a system in place now that gives them 100 percent,” Selectmen’s Chairman Ed Gleason said.

Officials have said that’s led to people from out of town looking to purchase homes in town just to take advantage of the tax break.

Another concern is that with the number of exemptions granted increasing, other taxpayers are picking up a bigger share of the cost for town government.

If voters approve, the town would have a three-tiered exemption, based on age, that would provide a maximum tax break of $100,000 in assessed property value.

People would have to meet financial qualifications. Single residents could not have income above $25,000, married couples could not exceed $37,000. Assets, not including the home, could not exceed $80,000.

Meanwhile, town officials will ask voters to increase the annual contribution to the ambulance fund from $25,000 to $60,000.

The fund finances ambulance purchases and is derived from user fees.

If contract agreements are reached with police and firefighters, selectmen anticipate convening after Christmas to move them to the Budget Committee for review.

The town deliberative session will be Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Sherburne Hall.

The school deliberative session will be Wednesday, Feb. 5, at Sherburne Hall.

Voting at Town Meeting will be March 11 at Pelham High School.

The candidate filing period will be Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Friday, Jan. 31. Major positions up this year include the selectmen’s seats held by William McDevitt and Douglas Viger.