The deadline for applying to two programs designed to help Gardiner residents on limited incomes is approaching, and city officials are encouraging residents who qualify to apply by Oct. 15.

Interim City Manager Anne Davis said she’s not sure city officials had any expectations about how many residents might sign up when the programs were announced earlier this year, but they wanted to offer help to Gardiner’s elderly and veterans.

“I assume the program will only grow from here,” Davis said.

The Sewer Discount Program, which already existed, used federal income requirements to help determine eligibility. Under the revised program, city officials have changed the income requirements so that anyone whose household income does not exceed 70 percent of the median household income based on the most recent U.S. Census data qualifies for the program.

Veterans or people with disabilities will receive a $25 reduction in domestic sewer charges. Qualifying residents ages 65 to 75 will receive a $25 reduction, and those 76 and older will receive a $45 discount. Anyone who now receives the discount will be grandfathered into the program, provided the candidate satisfies all other program requirements.

City officials have set aside $20,000 for that program.

The Senior Citizen Property Tax Relief Program, which is new, offers help to city residents 65 and older who have lived in Gardiner for at least 10 years. Any Gardiner property owner or renter who has received the Property Tax Fairness Credit from the state will receive an equal amount from the city, subject to City Council funding. This year, elected officials have dedicated $50,000 to the program.

Maine Revenue Services data show that 284 Gardiner residents received the credit in 2015, with a median benefit of $246. At that rate, the city could provide relief to 203 residents at the current level of funding. Fifty-four people have applied to the property tax program so far.

Davis said 48 people have applied for the sewer program. That’s up from 13 in 2016.

Earlier this year, a city-appointed committee presented recommendations for two programs to bring relief some city residents on fixed or limited incomes, and in the city budget, elected city officials funded both of them.

Gardiner’s property tax relief program is similar to those offered in Cumberland, North Yarmouth and York.

Kate Dufour, of the Maine Municipal Association, said Gardiner’s approach for providing property tax relief for its senior residents mimics what’s in state law, but that’s not the only form a tax relief program could take.

“Hampden has a tax club enrollment program,” Dufour said. “Provided you meet certain standards, you can pay on a monthly basis.”

Among the many ways that communities are delivering help to residents are trusts funded by contributions from residents or businesses to provide help to other residents, and ordinances to allow people to earn credits for volunteering.

“Municipal officials are in a balancing act,” Dufour said. “They want to reduce burdens on their seniors, but any reduction to one class is picked up by the remaining classes.”

City officials have been promoting the program to Gardiner residents, including meeting with senior groups in the community.

Applications for the program are available at Gardiner City Hall, at 6 Church St. For more information about the program and what documentation is required, contact Robin Plourde at 582-4200.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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