Changes proposed for seniors tax program

Shawn Hardy

Changes are being considered for the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Senior Citizens Tax Exchange Program in light of a change in staffing and changing times.

Dr. Jolinda "JC" Wilson, chief financial officer, talked about the program and possible changes at last week's school board meeting and it will be revisited in October.

"It's a very popular program," Wilson said.

In 2017-18, 333 taxpayers were assisted by the Senior Citizen Tax Exchange Program for rebates totaling $26,687. The average reimbursement was just over $80.

The program has been in place for 26 years and initially allowed senior citizens or someone on their behalf to work off property tax increases by volunteering in schools. Now volunteering in local schools requires screening and clearances.

Most of the volunteer time for the rebates is now linked to parents who volunteer at the primary and elementary schools but are not eligible for a rebate, according Wilson.

Diane Ellis, business office secretary, ran the Senior Citizens Tax Exchange Program for 24 years and was "a great face for this program," but she has retired and been replaced with a part-timer, according Wilson.

Wilson said Ellis had to calculate volunteer hours at $7.25 an hour, figure the tax amounts for each property, then provide the information to accounts payable for a check.

"This is an area with a lot of potential to streamline," Wilson said. "I have concerns about continuing the same way."

One suggestion is ending the volunteer hours component and instead linking the rebate to the mill rate and the assessed value of the senior citizen's property, with possible rebates of $80 for an assessed value of $30,000 or less; $100 for $30,000 to $60,000; and $120 for $120,000 and above.

The majority of current participants would get the $80 rebate, while two would get $120.

In Mechanicsburg, the rebate is related to income and tied to the Pennsylvania property tax rebate program, which is needs-based so "the neediest people are getting it," Wilson said.