SOUTHBURY — The Board of Selectmen, meeting Thursday, September 17, voted against the use of an asset test for residents applying for senior enhanced tax relief.
First Selectman Jeff Manville had asked town employees to research if and how other towns implement such a test, describing Southbury’s tax program by saying, “We’re probably one of the most generous in the state.”
He added that test might be a deterrent to abuse of the program. “I just want to make sure people don’t take advantage of the situation.”
The research identified three residents in New Canaan who were disqualified; that town includes retirement income in its calculations.
East Hartford reported a few residents in that situation each year.
The selectmen questioned what would be considered an asset, asking how a question would be worded on the application form.
Should the question ask if the resident has assets in excess of a certain amount; expressing concern that the lack of a definition of the word asset could be an issue.
They also weighted the administrative effort to evaluate the test against the benefit of excluding a small number of applicants versus asking a question that would rely on trusting residents to evaluate their assets.
A task force evaluating the matter recommended against the implementation of a test, cautioning that the minimum level should be $300,000 if it were implemented, given the low amount of money that might be realized from such an investment and the liability issues that might arise from implementing such a test.
Selectman Jason Buchsbaum noted that the proposed change of increasing the income limit for married couples by $8,000 should cause the revamping of the entire tax relief program. “We’re adding a lot of burden to a lot of people to try and protect against a couple of scenarios that are not going to have much of an impact in the long run.”
Mr. Manville was the only dissenting vote as the selectmen voted against implementing an asset test.
In other business, selectmen discussed revised ordinances so language removes references to fees and adds a veteran’s exemption ordinance, graffiti ordinance and pooper scooper ordinance.
One revision proposes a change in how the tax relief programs are implemented, changing a residency requirement from three to one year.
The next step in the process is to hold a public hearing to gather feedback from residents on the changes prior to a vote from the Board of Selectmen.
The board set the hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, October 15, to review ordinance changes.
Before going into executive session to interview the Board of Education candidates, the board considered a resolution against hatred and bigotry that would censure Selectman Mike Rosen, referencing his request to “Publicly acknowledge Southbury has a racism and bigotry problem,” and noting that his posts on social media have attracted comments that the resolution described as hateful with attacks on multiple people.
The resolution went on to note that the selectmen are supportive of lawn signs that proclaim, “Hate Has No Home Here,” and that hateful statements can encourage hatred and anger in others, resulting in violent acts, and that the board denounces all hateful speech and rhetoric.
Several residents attended the meeting to comment against the content on Mr. Rosen’s social media pages.
Addressing the board during a lengthy discussion of the matter, Mr. Rosen clarified that his request was truncated and said that black and brown residents have contacted him to share their experiences of racism.
“It’s not being divisive or trying to be political when I say that I believe, based on the stories I’ve heard from people and the experiences people have shared with me and my own family’s experiences, that Southbury has a racism and bigotry problem like every other town in this nation,” Selectman Rosen said.
Selectman Emily Harrison confirmed that, while he did not author negative comments on his Facebook page, “You’re perpetuating it by not disagreeing with it.”
As the resolution was not on the agenda, and there had been no motion to add it, Mr. Manville asked selectmen to give the matter thought and then called for a motion to go into executive session.