So what’s the deal with these $104 checks?
When I go around and talk to voters, I hear a lot about the issues people face. I hear about how the roads need fixing, how prescription drugs cost too much and boy, do I hear about property taxes. Recently, the State Treasurer mailed out $104 checks to some homeowners as a way to provide property tax relief.
As such, I’ve had a lot of folks ask me about that in recent weeks, so I thought I’d address it here.
The reality is that high property taxes can be a huge burden. For the working poor, or elderly folks on fixed incomes, a property tax increase can be all it takes to make the difference between having a roof over their head or not.
High property taxes also make it harder for young families just starting out to achieve the American Dream of home ownership.
However, property taxes are a necessary source of funding for important municipal programs and services, including schools, road maintenance and police and emergency response services.
Balancing the very real need to provide an education to our kids, maintain the roads and keep the public safe while trying not to squeeze property taxpayers out of house and home is a difficult task for municipal officials.
Over the years, the Legislature and various administrations have recognized this challenge and taken steps to try to ease the burden on property taxpayers, while still ensuring that towns and cities can collect the funding that they need.
Municipal Revenue Sharing — when a portion of the revenue collected by the state government from income, sales and other taxes is paid out to towns and cities to help them cover some of their costs — is one such program. There’s also a Property Tax Fairness Credit, which allows low-income folks to receive back a portion of the property taxes they paid for a given year when they file their income taxes.
The Homestead Exemption program is another one of these programs. It allows people who have lived in the home they own for more than a year to deduct up to $25,000 from the taxable value of their home, thereby paying less property taxes on that home. This is where the $104 checks come in.
Last year, we passed Public Law 448, “An Act to Return Funds to Maine Property Tax Payers,” which directed the State Treasurer to put excess revenue that the state collects beyond what is expected in a special fund to be paid out to those who qualify for the Homestead Exemption.
The law dictates that once there is enough money in the fund to pay out at least $100 to every person who qualifies, the treasurer is to pay out an equal portion of the fund to every qualifying homeowner.
That threshold was exceeded late last year, and so the treasurer has begun to issue checks to individuals who qualified for the Homestead Exemption at that time for their equal share of the fund: $104.
It’s a small measure of property tax relief aimed at helping those Mainers who live in the homes they own, and this time of year $104 can go a long way toward keeping oil in the tank, food on the table or gas in the car.
To learn about this program, visit maine.gov.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I want to hear from you. You can reach me by email at James.Dill@legislature.maine.gov or by phone at 207-287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.