Seniors may get a break

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

City lawmakers are expected to approve a policy Wednesday to help seniors and disabled residents with the high costs of tapping onto city water and sewer.

The City Council, during its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, is poised to take a second look at a plan to eliminate all or part of the $3,435 connection fees for eligible residents. The city already absorbs $1,750 of the cost through an environmental incentive reimbursement given to all residents.

Currently, everyone who has water and sewer service brought into their neighborhood is responsible for the remaining $1,685 connection.


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Under the proposed plan, seniors and disabled residents would be given reductions on a sliding scale, based on the homeowner’s income the previous year and total financial worth, said Al Moor, the city’s director of public utilities. The plan is based on the criteria set up in the city’s Property Tax Relief for the Elderly and Disabled, which council approved in April.

The plan would give eligible residents earning $0 to $17,000 a 100 percent exemption, Moor said. At the other end of the spectrum, those with incomes ranging from $30,000 to $32,000 would get a 10 percent discount.

Seniors have to be over age 65 and have a total net worth of under $125,000, excluding the market value of their home, Moor said. Disabled residents must be receiving disability checks and meet the same income.

Eligibility will be determined by the city’s Department of Social Services, Moor said.

Last month, there was considerable discussion over whether the proposal, if adopted, should be retroactive for eligible people who still owe the city money for their connection fees.

Councilman Charles Brown said that would be the only fair way to implement it.

&uot;It does not make sense to me to pass an ordinance allowing someone to get the same services for $500 that someone else still owes $1,000 for,&uot; he said. &uot;That doesn’t add up to me.

&uot;Regardless of what others say, the city should be city big enough to step out of the box…and allow those people to have the opportunity to renegotiate their balance.&uot;

Brown stressed that he was referring only to people who met eligibility criteria and still owed money to the city.

On Monday, Mayor Bobby Ralph said he anticipates council will adopt a policy after Wednesday’s public hearing.

&uot;I imagine it will be retroactive to a degree,&uot; said Ralph. &uot;We will have to decide where to draw that arbitrary line.

&uot;We’ll be looking to the staff’s recommendation to see what is feasible.&uot;

Councilman Calvin Jones believes the council will adopt the policy this week.

&uot;I think it will go through without any problems,&uot; said Jones. &uot;I just think it is the right thing to do.&uot;