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Lois Ahrens: There are ways beyond tax increases to improve Northampton

To the editor:

I have lived in Northampton since 1980 and have been an engaged member of the community as a volunteer, board member and a social justice activist. My paid work has been very rewarding but not profitable. Over the last 33 years, I hope my contributions to the city have been positive and have made Northampton a little more of what many believe Northampton should be.

I am the owner of a two-family house. I am 66 and live on a small fixed income. My property taxes, water and sewer fees now amount to almost 25 percent of my yearly income. I am not able to support the override because if it passes and fees and property taxes continue to rise, I will no longer be able to afford to live in my house.

What I find disheartening about the “Yes Northampton” campaign is that its organizers have created a false dichotomy between people who are financially able to support the override who they cast as virtuous and positive as opposed to those of us who cannot afford to support the override. We are characterized as not forward-thinking, stingy — the reactionary “No Northampton” people. There are a myriad of ways people say “yes” to Northampton and thankfully many of them do not involve voting for a tax we are unable to pay.

Lois Ahrens

Northampton

Follow-up on my comment: The Gazette references the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit (p. A4) but they have it wrong: - The age is 65, not 70 - You don't have to own your home, it applies to renters as well (25% of your rent) - The maximum credit in 2012 was $1000, not $650. It tends to go up a little each year

Lois, you should know about this. It seems that you and many other people on a fixed income would be eligible: What is the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit? The Circuit Breaker Tax Credit is a state income tax credit for eligible Massachusetts residents age 65 or older who paid rent or real estate taxes during the tax year. Even though the credit is based on property taxes, the state government, not the city or town, pays the credit. The credit is for senior homeowners and renters who meet income limits and other eligibility requirements. Homeowners may claim the credit if they paid more than 10% of their total income for real estate taxes, including water and sewer debt charges. Renters can count 25% of their rent as real estate tax payments. You must file a state income tax return to claim the Circuit Breaker Credit, whether or not you have to file otherwise. If your credit is greater than the amount of income taxes you owe, the state will give you a refund for the difference. The maximum credit for tax year 2012 is $1000. (The maximum credit for tax year 2011 was $980.)

...and yet, your letter is devoid of any concrete suggestions.

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