Staff Writer

SHIRLEY — If you’re over the age of 60, there is a program that might help reduce your real estate taxes, said assistant assessor Rebecca Caldbeck.

The Senior Tax Work-off Program — which also applies to handicapped residents — allows income-eligible residents age 60 and over to work up to 100 hours per year for a real estate tax credit of up to $750, she said during a Jan. 30 telephone interview.

Participating residents work for the town in any one of its departments, or within the school district for what works out to about two hours per week, Caldbeck explained, or a savings of about $62.50 per month.

“It is funded by the town,” said Caldbeck. “There’s an allowance for that in the budget.”

The town adopted the legislation in the early 2000s, but residents really started using the program in fiscal year 2004, she said.

The town worked to drum up interest in the program, according to Caldbeck; currently, about five or six seniors are reaping the benefits, she said.

“I think it’s a great program that I wish more people would utilize,” Caldbeck said. “A lot of people like it because it allows you to work off your taxes. It’s a credit you’ve earned.”

The goal of the program, according to the town’s Web site, is to provide assistance to eligible seniors or handicapped residents, as well as draw on their expertise and experience, thereby increasing their participation in town activities.

Some qualifications are:

* Applicants must be age 60 or over (age does not apply to handicapped applicants) and reside in Shirley.

* Residents must own and occupy the property.

* Individuals or families must provide documentation for income eligibility.

To be eligible for the program, single applicants can make up to $30,990 a year, and married applicants can make as much as $41,320 plus a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase, Caldbeck explained.

The town also offers several statutory exemptions for seniors over the age of 70, veterans, and residents who are blind, she said.

About 60 resident veterans who have service-related disabilities are receiving real estate tax exemptions through two programs, said Caldbeck.

Veterans who verify that they became disabled during military service and received honorable discharges qualify for either clause 22A-F, which qualifies them to receive an exemption of $400, or clause 22E for a $1,000 exemption, she explained.

Through another clause — 41D of the Massachusetts General Laws — residents over age 70 can apply for a $500 real estate tax exemption, Caldbeck said.

The following criteria must be met to receive the exemption benefit:

* Applicant must have reached age 70 by July 1 of the assessment year.

* The property must be owned and occupied by the applicant.

* Residents must have lived in Massachusetts for at least 10 years, and owned and occupied his or her dwelling for at least five years.

* The value of the property excluding the dwelling must meet eligibility requirements.

A $500 credit is also available to legally blind property owners who reside in the taxed dwelling, provided a certificate from the Commission of the Blind is furnished yearly.

The deadline for exemption applications is March 31, Caldbeck said.

Residents who wish to apply for any of these benefits can visit Caldbeck at the Town Offices on Keady Way, she said. Caldbeck can also be reached at (978) 425-2600, ext. 220.