LEICESTER, Mass. — Leicester's town departments have been getting a little help from its senior citizens, who in turn have worked off some of their property taxes through an abatement program.
Under the popular program, taxpayers older than 60 have volunteered their services to the municipality in exchange for a reduction in their tax bills. The workers are helping overloaded departments such as the town clerk's office, senior center, police department, highway department and tax collector's office.
"It's an excellent program. We've been blessed with many good workers," said Town Clerk Debbie Davis. "It's good for them, too. They feel good about themselves."
The program has been so successful that selectmen may expand it so more Leicester seniors can benefit.
Currently, funding is limited to $7,500, which comes out of the town's overlay reserve. This allows at least 10 seniors to be eligible and to earn a maximum amount of $750 at an hourly rate not to exceed the state's minimum wage.
More than 10 seniors can participate if the positions are split in half, but selectman discussed increased the total amount as well to grow the number of participants.
"It's a difference of $750 per senior," said Doug Belanger. "As we continue to cut budgets in departments, this is a selective way to help with the workload."
Selectman also discussed going to a lottery system to ensure that the same seniors are not selected each year.
Selectman Sandy Wilson said she supports the program as long as it doesn't take away from an employee's job.
"It should be to assist and not replace," Wilson said.
Applicants must be more than 60 years old, be an assessed owner of the property on which the abatement is applied and pass a criminal background check.
Taxpayers may earn abatement under the work-off program and still be eligible for other property tax exemptions.
Seniors who may have questions with regard to this program are invited to call the assessor's office at 508-892-7001.