Tax relief for people with disabilities adopted
The Town Council has adopted an ordinance providing a tax exemption for all totally disabled people after no comments were received at a recent public hearing. The ordinance took effect upon passage.
The councilors said that they had no way of knowing how many residents might be eligible or who would apply for the exemption.
The ordinance was requested more than a year ago by a deaf person wanting to be treated "as equally" as a blind person. Acting on the request last summer, the councilors decided the exemption should be extended not only to the deaf, but also to all totally disabled people.
The council received General Assembly authorization to provide the exemption, and assigned Associate Town Solicitor Lauriston Parks to draft an appropriate ordinance.
Parks responded with a proposal that provides for a maximum $25,000 exemption on real estate, representing an actual tax savings of not quite $237.25 this year. To be eligible for the benefit, a person must be under age 65 and own the property. The totally disabled person also cannot use the property to produce income, cannot have income of more than $25,000, and cannot be a party of a double exemption, even if both parties are totally disabled.
The equal treatment was requested by Gemma Guinguing of Intrepid Lane, a past Miss Deaf Rhode Island. She owns no real estate, and therefore is not eligible for any exemption.
She asked the council to give the same tax exemption to deaf residents that is provided to blind people, who are given $15,000 exemptions based on medical diagnosis and not according to income standards.
Guinguing said she is not against the extension according to disability but questions the criteria pertaining to income and Social Security standards. She had written "Please do not make my simple request for fairness more complicated."
The town has nine categories of tax exemptions, ranging from $2,000 to $50,000, for veterans, disabled veterans, widows of veterans, Gold Star parents, the elderly, fire and ambulance volunteers, and the visually impaired. Each $1,000 of exemption this year saves a taxpayer $9.49, for an apparent maximum savings of $474.50. Several factors affect the elderly exemption, so the maximum is not readily apparent.
Guinguing said that blind people and other existing groups who are eligible for exemptions do not have criteria about working or income. Another factor is that some exemptions affect only real estate, and other exemptions may be applied to motor vehicles or other taxed items. Some exemptions also allow double exemptions on a single property if two eligible parties co-own it.