NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

High Local Taxes Are Dislodging Some Seniors

February 27, 2001

Elderly retirees in some suburban communities are being faced with the choice of continuing to pay high local tax bills or relocate to areas where taxes are more moderate. But some savvy local officials are taking steps to retain their communities' seniors -- recognizing that they use fewer community services than young families.

  • When retirees move and sell their homes to a family with children, the new and larger family adds to enrollment at local schools, increases demand for garbage pick-up, adds more cars on the road and adds to demand for more services generally.
  • The mayor of West Windsor, N.J., for example, did the math and found that a new family adding just one child to be educated would eat up the taxes their house produces -- and two more children would present the school district with a $20,000 annual education bill.
  • So the mayor and others have launched a movement in New Jersey to encourage retirees to stay in their homes by reducing the punishing level of property taxes that could force them to move.
  • In addition to freezing or lowering property taxes, a number of communities in New Jersey and other states are offering seniors such benefits as free or discounted public transportation, free medical screening or the opportunity to audit local college courses for little or no charge.

Communities are also offering senior centers, which are combination social clubs, gyms and clinics. There are now 16,000 such centers around the country -- double the number in 1980.

One side effect, however, is that when seniors elect to remain in their community, that community very likely retains "no" votes on any proposal to issue new bonds for school construction.

Source: Iver Peterson, "As Taxes Rise, Suburbs Work to Keep Elderly," New York Times, February 27, 2001.


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