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Canaan Articles Seek Tax Aid for Disabled, Elderly

Ballot voting on all Canaan Town Meeting warrant articles will be held March 11, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Canaan Fire Station.

Canaan — The operating budget is expected to have little, if any, impact on the tax rate in Canaan, but two articles aimed at helping the elderly and disabled still could increase the burden on some residents.

The proposed municipal budget for 2014 is up nearly 4 percent from the previous year, though the tax rate is expected to hold firm.

The $3.2 million operating budget includes $122,398 of additional spending, with most of the increase coming to buy new equipment. Revenue is also expected to be higher and so paying for it will not have to come from raising taxes, said Town Administrator Mike Samson.

But two articles to provide property tax relief for disabled persons and the elderly could shift about $80,000 in additional tax burden to other homeowners.

Article 13 calls for exempting the first $85,000 of a home’s assessed value from property tax if it is owned by disabled residents, as long as they fall below certain income thresholds and meet other criteria. Article 14 provides a similar exemption for low-income homeowners who are 65 years of age or older. Samson said the articles were driven, in part, by a proposed $21.5 million renovation to Mascoma Valley Regional High School to be voted on this year.

If the bond passes, then the school tax rate for Canaan residents would rise 4 cents in the first year and an additional 63 cents in the second year. That could be enough to force people on limited incomes into a difficult financial situation, Samson said.

“There are some folks that, if they get any increase at all, they might be out of their house,” Samson said.

The change to the disabled exemption would add 6.5 cents per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value, or $13 on a $200,000 home, and the elderly exemption would add 26 cents, or $52 on a $200,000 house.

Canaan needs to replace a truck lift at the highway garage, buy an excavator and also replace air tanks at the fire department. Those three items account for nearly all of the budget increase.

Town officials expect tax revenue this year will be nearly $140,000 more than they need to support the operating budget. This is largely based on past experience and expected federal emergency funds from flooding last year. Last year, Canaan planned on $3.2 million in revenue and actually received $68,000 more than that.

If all spending articles are approved, expenditures will come to just under $3.6 million. That’s an increase of 4 percent from last year. The amount to be raised by taxes is estimated to increase $20,000, or less than 1 percent, to $2.04 million.

There are no contested races this year.

Chris Fleisher can be reached at 603-727-3229 or cfleisher@vnews.com.