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Thurmont seniors could get tax relief

Stephanie Long

(4/17) Senior homeowners in Thurmont may get some of their property tax money back if the Thurmont Commissioners decide to implement a proposed program that would give tax relief to qualified applicants.

In 2006, the state of Maryland enacted the Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit program, which grants homeowners credit on their property tax bill. Essentially the program puts money back into the pockets of Maryland homeowners, which is something that John Ashbury, a member of Thurmont’s Senior Commission, wants to do more of in Thurmont.

Ashbury would like to implement a similar program for Thurmont senior residents, in addition to the statewide program. The state program is available to any homeowner in Maryland. Qualification for the program is based upon the gross household income, which cannot exceed $60,000; the amount of credit one receives is determined by the applicants’ income. The program Ashbury would like the town to implement would be based on the state program and include similar qualifications and benefits, except it would solely benefit seniors.

For example, a qualified senior Thurmont resident who had a gross household income of $15,000 would have to pay $355 back to the town of Thurmont. Considering the rising cost of gasoline, food and housing, the program could mean “a huge chunk of change for your pocket,” Ashbury said, and help many who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Finding funding for such a program could be a difficult task for Thurmont, but Ashbury suggested that Thurmont set aside $10,000 in the budget for the programs and make it a “first come, first serve” program, which means that once all of the allocated money had been disbursed, no more would be available.

Mayor Martin Burns and the commissioners, who were presented with Ashbury’s proposal at the April 7 town meeting, found value in the program and the benefit it could bring to the community, but wanted to discuss the program further and look into both sides of the issue.

“Let’s see if we can afford it and see if the board approves,” Burns said. “There are concerns to look at.”

One concern Burns had was that other families, who are not seniors, are struggling as much as senior residents. Commissioner Ron Terpko shared similar sentiments, but said that “anything we can do… we need to do” to help struggling residents.

No final decision was made at the meeting and conceptualizing and implementing the program could be months down the road, but Burns said he wanted to seriously pursue implementing a program, “start small and see how it affects,” Burns said.

Burns also wanted to insure residents that his support of the program does not mean he is “trying to make a huge welfare program” but rather give qualified residents temporary help when needed.

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