Gov. Paul LePage should be commended for seeking a humane solution to the problem of elders losing their homes because of unpaid property taxes (“Opposition to bill to help elderly manage taxes, stay home runs afoul of LePage,” Sept. 5). Municipalities have a legitimate concern about another state program that imposes costs on local taxpayers. Sniping at each other won’t produce a resolution. Negotiating in good faith may create a mutually satisfactory solution.

One suggestion: a state-funded program that buys the tax liens from the towns, to be paid upon sale or death of the last homeowner. It borrows concepts from existing, working programs.

More suggestions: Six months prior to a tax lien maturing, the town sends the property owner a notice informing of an option seeking state relief from tax lien foreclosure. Eligibility criteria may be negotiated, but assume it is focused on elders. Prior to foreclosure, if the town can ascertain that the taxpayer meets the criteria, it asks the state to buy the tax lien for an assignment of the priority tax lien. The state of Maine floats a bond for funding; the interest rate on the municipal lien would probably exceed the interest obligation incurred.

Like any other lien, when the property is sold or probated, the state gets paid the value of the lien, with interest. You could also make it payable on death, with protections for surviving older owners. How complicated or expensive the process is depends upon what eligibility criteria are agreed upon. Keep it simple, and it’s potentially cheap.

The municipality gets paid taxes due promptly. The state utilizes its borrowing power to fund the program, but gets repaid with a potential profit. Elders don’t lose their homes because of escalating municipal taxes.

Don’t let politics interfere with the solution to an agreed-upon need.

Steve Hayes


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