Senior Citizen Home Improvement Program Popular Before Approval

Kim Ecklund, R-At Large and Finance Committee chairwoman, points to confusing wording in a proposal to help senior citizens fix their homes as Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2 and council president; Crystal Surdyk, city development director, Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4 and Housing Committee chairwoman; and Ryan Thompson, city comptroller, look on. P-J photo by John Whittaker

A proposal to use federal stimulus money to help senior citizens fix their homes was popular even before its formal approval by the City Council.

Council members have discussed the $500,000 Senior Citizen Home Improvement Incentive Program and a $500,000 Home Improvement Incentive Program. The two programs are being proposed as a tandem to reach senior citizens across a range of income levels. Finance Committee members approved the programs with few concerns on Monday. The program is proposed through the city assessor’s office.

“People are already asking, Crystal, about can they call and apply now even though we haven’t voted on it yet,” said Kim Ecklund, R-At Large and Finance Committee chairwoman, addressing Crystal Surdyk, city development director. “Can they get on a list?”

The senior citizen program works in two ways. Homeowners who are either currently receiving, or would qualify to receive the Aged Exemption, could receive up to a dollar-for-dollar rebate check for either all repairs up to $10,000 or to 90% of the total cost of home repairs up to $10,000 depending on which part of the program they qualify to use. Homeowners who have lived in their home for at least a year and have total income, including social security, less than or equal to $22,000 for county taxes or $19,000 for city and school taxes could receive the dollar-for-dollar rebate check up to $10,000.

Homeowners who are either currently receiving or would qualify to receive the Enhanced STAR Exemption or Check Program can perform up to $10,000 in documented repairs or improvements and receive a rebate check for 90% of the total cost. There were questions about how much of a rebate senior citizens would approve. Clarification is needed, Ecklund said, though council members approve of the idea.

“Those questions still exist, though we are in favor of the resolution,” Ecklund said. “We want to get some clarity with the city assessor on some of the verbiage for the rebate amount and that clarification before we actually vote. Other than that it passed Finance.”

Ecklund said the phrasing is important because it could mean the difference between seniors having to spend money before doing home improvement work. Clearing up the language could open the program to more senior citizens rather than limiting it to those who have the financial means to do home improvement work.

“It’s confusing, so I wanted it cleared up before we pass it,” Ecklund said. “I don’t think people have an issue with it, we just want to make sure the verbiage is clear. I think we need to get that fixed at least. If someone is hurting for finances they don’t have $4,500 to pay up front. That kind of defeats the purpose.”


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