Groton offers both tax payment deferment, low interest rate programs
Groton — The Town Council voted this week to participate in a 90-day deferment program for tax payments and municipal water, sewer and electric charges, as well as a low interest rate program for those not eligible for the deferment program.
Under an executive order issued by Gov. Ned Lamont, municipalities have to choose at least one of two programs that provide “support to eligible taxpayers, businesses, nonprofits and residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The deferment program extends the deadline for tax payments and municipal, electric, water and sewer bills; the low interest rate program reduces interest rates to 3% on delinquent bills.
All Groton homeowners living in a residential property automatically will receive the option of the 90-day deferment from the due date for taxes and municipal water, sewer and electric charges, according to Finance Director Cindy Landry. They do not need to fill out an application.
However, taxpayers who do not own a home, landlords, businesses and nonprofits will need to prove their eligibility to participate in the deferment program and will have to complete an application and provide required documentation, according to Landry. For example, businesses and nonprofits would need to have at least an expected 30% reduction in revenue between March and June, compared to the same period last year, to be eligible.
The deferment program applies to payments due April 1 through July 1 for real estate, personal property or motor vehicle taxes, or municipal water, sewer and electric charges.
Taxpayers, businesses and nonprofits that are not eligible for the deferment program automatically will receive an interest rate reduction on delinquent bills, Landry said. However, landlords not eligible for the deferment must complete an application to determine eligibility for the low interest rate program, she added.
The low interest rate program also applies to payments due April 1 through July 1. It reduces interest rates on delinquent bills for a 90-day period from their due date, a town document states.
Additional information, guidelines and application links will be posted on the town’s website, groton-ct.gov.
Under the order, mortgage holders who pay taxes through escrow payments still need to pay on time. About 40% of Groton’s property taxes are paid through escrow accounts, according to Town Manager John Burt.
Before voting on Tuesday, the Town Council discussed several different options with town staff, the town attorney and representatives of fire districts, the City of Groton and Groton Long Point.
Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky said by email that all options prepared by the town attorney and staff were fiscally sound and none would have put the town or subdivisions at risk of not being able to continue business. She said the Town Council chose a combination of both programs as a way to maximize the relief for taxpayers while keeping the town functioning.
“The town worked in concert with stakeholders to move ahead in a fiscally responsible manner to benefit the people of Groton,” said Granatosky. “The town appreciates the spirit and energy of our partners in local government to help us work through this difficult subject and their willingness to provide relief to our taxpayers.”
Councilor Aundré Bumgardner said by phone that with so many families facing financial hardship during these unprecedented times, the council heeded the governor’s call to provide temporary forbearance of property tax collection and reduced interest rates on delinquent taxes by following the KISS principle of ‘keep it simple, stupid.’ Residential taxpayers will receive deferral without paperwork, while taxpayers not eligible for the deferral program will get the low interest rate.
Bumgardner, who proposed the option the council chose, which was a hybrid of other proposals, said Groton residents and small businesses facing food insecurity, health challenges and employment uncertainty will get temporary relief from paying property or motor vehicle taxes and municipal water, sewer and electric rates.
The Town Council unanimously voted in favor of the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday. During its Committee of the Whole meeting earlier in the evening, Councilor Joe Zeppieri favored an option that would have required homeowners to also demonstrate need, because he said he would prefer to determine who really needs help and give them the help they need, while minimizing the impact on the town.
“We are facing an extraordinary situation with many households and businesses facing difficult decisions,” Councilor Conrad Heede said by email. “I supported a tax deferral to make sure the choice a family has to make is not whether they pay property taxes or instead put food on the table. However, to make this work and not disrupt the town or utilities, I would respectfully remind those who are still working and can still afford to make regularly scheduled payments to continue to pay their bills on time. We are all in this together and need to work together to get through it.”