Earlier this year, I proposed to the Newbury selectmen that they should consider adopting a program to help veterans who own property in town.
Now, I have a question for the residents of Newbury: Would you be in favor of the town of Newbury adopting M.G.L. Chapter 59 Section 5N — “Reduction of property tax obligation of veteran in exchange for volunteer services”?
By adopting this Mass. General Law, Newbury can establish a program to allow veterans, or a spouse of a veteran in the case where the veteran is deceased or has a service-connected disability, to volunteer to provide services to the town.
Now, in exchange for their volunteer services, the town will reduce the property tax obligations of the veteran. This reduction will be in addition to any exemption or abatement of which otherwise they are entitled to.
The veteran (or spouse) cannot be credited more than the current minimum wage of the state’s minimum wage per hour rate. The reduction of the property tax bill may not exceed $1,000 in a given tax year.
The town would have the power to create local rules and procedures for implementing this program in a way that is consistent with the intent of this program if they choose to adopt this program. It is important to note that adopting this program cannot cause a reduction of workforce or replace existing staff and or positions.
The amount of money reduced of the veteran’s property tax is not considered income, wages or employment. While they volunteer for the town, the veteran will be considered a public employee for the purposes of Chapter 258 and their services will be considered employment for the purposes of unemployment insurance as provided in Chapter 151A.
The selectmen by vote may change the exemption in this program by: (i) allowing a representative for the veterans who are physically unable to provide services to the town; or (ii) allowing the maximum reduction of the property tax bill be based on 125 volunteer hours in a tax year, rather than the $1,000 maximum reduction.
Would you be in favor of Newbury adopting this program? We already have one similar to this for senior citizens in town and some of our surrounding communities have already adopted it.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, at Newbury’s Special Town Meeting, there will be a vote on whether the town should adopt this or not. I personally think the town should; it would be a great way for the town to show their appreciation and support for veterans.
Thank you all for your consideration on adopting this program in the town of Newbury. This is a small gesture to our veterans in town.