A plan to help Sudbury senior citizens with their property taxes

Sudbury officials are urging residents to head to the polls Tuesday to support a proposal they say would reduce the tax burden on a small number of seniors struggling to stay in their homes.

The plan calls for increasing the tax burden on all residential taxpayers by 0.5 percent, and using the additional revenue to reduce the bills for about 250 low- to moderate-income seniors who pay more than 10 percent of their income on property taxes.

Proponents say the shift would cost the average taxpayer about $55 a year, but could save a low-income senior as much as $6,000.

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“It’s a modest, shared responsibility to help keep some of these seniors in their homes in Sudbury,’’ said resident Ralph Tyler, who has been working on the plan for several years.

The tax-reduction program for seniors is one of two items on the special election ballot Tuesday. Question No. 1 is also seeking a tax increase, through a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override that would pay for repairs to the Nixon School’s roof.

The school project, with an estimated cost of $808,000, was approved by Town Meeting in September. Sudbury is in line for a grant from the Massachusetts School Building Authority that would help pay for the project. If the town receives a grant that reduces its share to $532,000, a taxpayer owning a home assessed at $621,410, the average in Sudbury, would pay $9 or $10 more a year over the bond’s 10-year period, according to local officials.

Town officials say the tax reduction has been in the works for years, as they have tried to address concerns about whom it would help and how much it would cost.

The plan was approved at Town Meeting last year, but still needed approval by the state Legislature and then by residents in a townwide vote. The reduction cleared Beacon Hill this summer, paving the way for Tuesday’s final vote. If approved, it would take effect July 1.

“The town has long recognized a need to help low- and moderate-income seniors who are paying excessive amounts of their income on property taxes, and for eight years, we’ve been looking to do that in a way people could endorse,’’ Tyler said.

Under the plan, the reduction program would last three years, but could be extended. The tax increase would be 0.5 percent for the first year, but the Board of Selectmen could vote to increase the percentage to a maximum of 1 percent after that. In the first year, the 0.5 percent increase would generate about $320,000,  which would be used to reduce the bills of the town’s qualifying seniors.