Legal roadblocks stall Shrewsbury selectman’s push for additional senior, veteran tax exemptions

185

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Selectman Maurice DePalo sought to help seniors and veterans by finding underutilized exemptions in state tax law. On closer look, though, he discovered a little wiggle room in what he described as a “frustrating” situation. 

Veterans and seniors earning below a minimum level of income are eligible for partial property tax exemptions under state law. The payouts aren’t big. But, according to DePalo, assessors have been able to provide exemptions starting at $175 and rising as high as $1,000. 

Still, because of the low income threshold required to meet these qualifications, DePalo said only 282 people had taken advantage of 11 different tax abatement categories in Shrewsbury in recent years. That’s of concern, particularly as Shrewsbury voters may soon vote to effectively accept a property tax hike that exceeds normal state limits in order to fund essential town services during an ongoing budget crisis.

“We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the need for the [tax] override and what it’s going to cost,” DePalo said at a Selectmen meeting March 30. “… A concern of our Board was that there are going to be people who are going to have difficulties paying this additional tax.”

DePalo spearheaded an effort to see what options exist for those in need. 

He studied Mass. General Laws looking for any opportunities that the town isn’t taking advantage of. He found several, which he then brought to an attorney from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, who fully explained how they work.

“It became very clear [however] that there is a reason that most cities and towns don’t use any of these [options],” DePalo remarked. “Some of them don’t make sense.”

After starting this push with the hope of possibly bringing items to Town Meeting, DePalo does not anticipate there will be any other ways that the town can help seniors or veterans in particular beyond what it is already doing. 

“It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “But that’s the case, and state law governs all of these. So, it’s very frustrating.”