Seniors seek tax credits to offset pay for services
CONCORD - Nearly 100 residents, many from the Nashua region, living in seniors-only housing complexes, pushed lawmakers hard, seeking up to a $500 property tax credit to offset the hundreds they spend each month to maintain their own roads, fire hydrants and street lights. Frank Dube spends $200 a month in condominium fees as his share in the 46-home, Gilchrest Farm condominium complex in Litchfield and pays $4,800 in property taxes. "All we are trying to get is a little break paying for services that everyone in their own neighborhood gets with their taxes: the streets plowed, the lights replaced, the trash picked up,'' Dube said during an interview. State Reps. Russell and Lynne Ober, both R-Hudson, created the bill after meeting with residents from the eight seniors-only complexes in Litchfield that formed the Seniors Condominium Association of Litchfield. BILL AT A GLANCE But residents from seniors-only condominium developments and mobile home parks across the state packed a corridor in the Legislative Office Building so tightly, they couldn't all get into the hearing room to listen to the testimony for the legislation. "These people are paying extra for services they are not getting,'' Russell Ober told the House Local and Regulated Revenues Committee in promoting the bill (HB 522) at a hearing Wednesday. Lynne Ober said planners in many towns are openly embracing these privately contained developments full of seniors that don't have children to clog the schools and strain the infrastructure. "Towns have found a new way of sharing costs with their residents - they are refusing to provide services, leaving some residents paying for more services than other residents,'' she said. "Yet the residents on these private roads pay the exact same portion of road maintenance taxes as their compatriots who do enjoy snowplowing and road maintenance. This cost shifting is not acceptable.'' But committee members gave the measure a chilly reception, pointing out that its seniors-only tax credit was unfair to younger residents who live on private roads and pay the same taxes as those on publicly maintained streets. Rep. David Hess, R-Hooksett, said private agreements often make these homes more affordable for seniors to buy, and now some residents want to change the terms of that bargain. "Isn't this a backdoor way to get around these agreements that were made when these developments were put in place?'' Hess said. Rep. Mary Beth Walz, D-Bow, the committee's chairwoman, said all residents pay for some local services they don't receive. "I pay the full cost of having an ambulance service but that has never been to my house, and maybe I only drive on a few roads through my town, but I pay for them all,'' Walz declared. The Obers said they were open to changing the bill to have it apply for all those who pay private road or service fees. Bill Cogger has been living for five years in Hollis Depot, a 60-unit, seniors-only condominium project near the Dunstable, Mass., line and paying $250 a month. Cogger and others interviewed admitted it could be a hard sell to get community officials or voters at town meetings to grant this tax credit, even if those lobbying in support can turn it into a state law. "I would like to think they would look favorably on this in Hollis; we represent a fairly large voting bloc,'' Cogger said. Richard White, 75, lives in Litchfield's Stage Crossing complex, and he pays $320 in monthly condominium fees. White's wife, Jean, is a prime mover in the SCAL group and said these seniors will mobilize in towns across the state to convince voters and elected officials that they deserve a break. "The town isn't going to have a choice because we are going to make sure it happens,'' Richard White added. "We'll do whatever it takes.''