New England Town Offers Retirees Work to Pay Off Property Taxes

Like many seniors, Arlene and "Murch" Murchison live on a fixed income.

They face a roughly $1,400 annual tax bill, but this year will be different thanks to an innovative new program that allows older residents in the city of Saco, Maine to work off a portion of their tax burden instead of paying out of pocket.

"And this is a great way because it helps pay your taxes…and you have that extra money to do those things that you need to do," Arlene Murchison said.

Twenty residents have been accepted so far, trading a variety of odd jobs and services for tax relief. Arlene is assigned as a greeter at Saco's new train station. Her husband tags along for the ride -- a two for one deal.

Participants must be at least 60 years old and make under $60,000. The abatement is capped at $750 per household.

The program costs the city about $15,000, a bargain Saco officials say.

"It certainly helps them financially, but I think it just lifts their spirits even more," said Daniel Sanborn, the city's tax assessor.

From painting equipment to filing papers at City Hall, retired residents of Saco are turning their talents into city services.

City officials say the program gives retirees a sense of purpose and provides a welcome tax break in tough economic times. Participants say the true value lies in the building of community.

"It's not so much the money," Sanborn said. "It's 'the town needs me'."