Thursday, January 28, 2021

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Chester Offers Tax Relief Programs for January Taxes

Under an extension of Governor Ned Lamont’s tax deferral programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Chester has chosen to offer an extended grace period and a low interest rate on delinquent taxes through March 31, for taxes due Jan. 1.

The Chester Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted unanimously to offer both programs to any resident, business, nonprofit, or landlord in Chester at its Dec. 23, 2020 meeting.

Chester First Selectman Lauren Gister said the decision to offer both, instead of only an extension of the grace period, which was offered for July taxes, would be in line with the recommendation of officials on the town’s Board of Finance.

“At the Board of Finance meeting there was conversation, and a poll was taken…it was pretty much unanimous, that people felt like it might be a little more painful this spring than it was last July because it’s been so long with the pandemic and it probably would be a good idea to choose to do both,” said Gister.

Data from the state Department of Labor, which was shared at the finance board’s Dec. 17, 2020 meeting, shows an increase in the number of unemployed individuals in Chester, from 73 or 3.04 percent in March 2020 to 198 or 8.22 percent in July. In October, there were 97 unemployed individuals, or 4.15 percent.

Chester Tax Collector Madaline Meyer, who attended the December BOS meeting, said that for the July 2020 taxes, the town did not see a significant number of delinquencies on behalf of regular taxpayers with the grace period’s extension, or deferral, option.

“We didn’t do too bad,” she said. “We only had 32 that were delinquent and my normal delinquent per month is between 22 and 26.”

The extension of the grace period, or deferment of taxes, for taxes due Jan. 1, is from Feb. 1 to March 31 without interest or penalty.

Specific eligibility requirements for landlords include showing a loss of income or proof that “commensurate forbearance” (a deferral of rent) was offered to tenants or lessees. Any landlord must apply for deferment by Feb. 1.

Meyer reported that offering the lower interest rate would help “landlords who either did not qualify for the deferment or who did not bother to apply for the deferment.”

The lower interest program charges 0.25 percent per month on delinquent taxes, with the interest reverting to 1.5 percent per month on April 1, from the original due date of the tax, which would be Jan. 1.

Meyer reported that 58 landlords in Chester could potentially benefit from offering both the deferral and the lower interest rate program.

“We know that Chester residents pay their taxes if they can,” said Gister, who added, “I don’t know that it’s going to make that much of a difference to the town to do both [the deferment and the lower interest rate programs], but it might make a whole heck of a lot of difference to the residents.”

The state’s tax deferral programs for Jan. 1 taxes are offered under Executive Order No. 7R, which is an extension of Executive Order No. 7S, which Lamont issued last April for taxes due in July. Both executive orders offer taxpayers relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A deferment application for landlords is available at chesterct.org/town-services/tax-collector.


Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at e.reinhart@shorepublishing.com.

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