Williams City Council skeptical over senior aid
The draft of an ordinance that would offer a $5 utility easement credit for qualifying low-income seniors failed to impress the Williams City Council at its Sept. 25 meeting.
Williams finance officer Jorge Carmona presented the council with a draft of the Senior Citizens Affordable Utility Rate Ordinance.
Modeled on Davis' one-year pilot program for water rate assistance, the ordinance would offer a discount of $5 a month to qualifying low-income seniors.
"We took some input from the City Council at a previous meeting. We have a menu of options. I read through Davis' (ordinance) to look at it and customize it for ours," Carmona told the council.
According to Carmona's presentation, the amount available for the easement of utility fees was $5,040. It was estimated that the program could assist 42 to 84 low-income seniors.
Council members were quick to point out flaws they saw in the ordinance. One was that income tax returns were the criteria by which low-income seniors would be selected.
Except in certain circumstances, many senior citizens on Social Security do not file income tax returns.
For the 2012 tax year, unmarried people over 65 are not required to file income tax returns if their annual gross income is less than $11,200. For married couples who are each 65 or older, the amount is $21,800. In married couples where only one spouse is 65 or older, the threshold is $20,650.
Councilwoman Angela Plackek-Fulcher pointed out that many seniors do not file income tax returns, saying: "I'm not sure how we could use income tax returns to verify their income amount."
"As with any program, there is the potential for dishonesty," she added.
Councilman John Troughton Jr. expressed concern about the number of participants used to determine the cost of the ordinance, saying: "How are we going to limit that (number) to 42 to 84 participants? I don't see how we can do it. … There would be no time limit, so it would kind of snowball."
First-come-first-served and rolling enrollment programs were discussed, but the council saw issues with both of them.
"I want to do something, but where do we start?" asked Williams Mayor Pat Ash.
"I'm sorry to say, but I think we need to can this wonderful idea. With the amount of people it's going to help, and the amount of work that will have to go into it, it just can't work," Plackek-Fulcher said.
Even with all the issues raised in the council's discussion, Councilman Kent Boes was not ready to give up on the idea.
"I'm still on the fence about this. I'd like to see some more numbers," Boes said.
Ash concluded the discussion by saying: "At this point, I don't think the $5,000 is going to help enough people."