Nearly 80 seniors from Warburg, Thorsby and Breton celebrated Seniors’ Week together with a special luncheon held at the Warburg Pioneer Community Hall on June 4, 2013. Alberta Seniors Program Advisor Laura Pawlechko delivered the keynote address which highlighted provincial programs available for seniors.
Lunch was catered by Warburg Family & Community Support Services Coordinator (FCSS), Marj Savage, and the Warburg FCSS Board with a little help from Chris Pankewitz and Leduc County FCSS Advisory Committee (Rural West) Member at large, Vivian Martinoff.
Warburg School grade 5 teacher, Carolyn Meyer, brought along 11 students from grades 5 and 6 who paired up with some seniors for a folk dance—the Ozark Rag from a collection of folk dances from Marion Rose. Following the senior-student dance, Zoltan Liba and the Country Friends band played to the enjoyment of everyone.
In her opening remarks, Pawlechko shared some senior trivia. “There are 450 thousand seniors in Alberta,” she told the audience. “And by 2031, the senior population is expected to rise to 900 thousand.” Pawlechko then reviewed the following programs available to seniors sixty-five and over.
The Alberta Seniors Benefit (ASB) program was brought in in 1994. It provides monthly cash and subsidy benefits to eligible seniors to supplement federal programs like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
Since 1995, the Special Needs Assistance for Seniors has assisted low income seniors with one time extraordinary personal expenses like essential home repairs, appliances, and some medical expenses.
Dental and Optical Assistance is available, providing up to $5000 in basic dental every five years and $230 for prescription eyeglasses every three years. The amount of coverage is based on your annual income. In general, single seniors with an annual income of $31,675 or less, and senior couples with a combined annual income of $63,350 or less, may qualify for the Dental and Optical Assistance for Seniors programs.
The Educational Tax Rebate Program provides senior homeowners with a rebate to cover year-to-year increases in the education portion of their property taxes. This program will end on December 31, 2013.
Pawlechko is a bit more cautious about the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program.
“While it may work for some, it may not work for all,” she said. In fact, she was against the program until an unnamed gentleman shared this experience with her.
His roof was leaking but he lacked the cash to fix it. He didn’t qualify for Special Needs Assistance because he was just over the income threshold. This year, he deferred his property tax at 3% and is going to use that money saved from the property tax to fix his roof.
When she asked why he didn’t just take out a bank loan to fix it, he replied, “They wanted just over 6.25% interest, so why wouldn’t I take it at 3%?” He will either pay it back, or it will be paid back when the house sells. Pawlechko said this opened her eyes so she could see a little clearer, though she’s still not sure the program will work for everybody.
So, if you are an eligible homeowner, you can defer all or part of your residential property taxes owed to a municipality through a low-interest home equity loan with the Alberta government administered through ATB. This may include outstanding arrears and penalties. Only residential properties that are your primary residence where you live most of the time will be considered. The residential portion of farm land will also be considered. You must be 65 years of age or older and have a minimum of 25% equity in your primary residence. This means that all charges registered against the residence in a Land Titles Office cannot exceed 75% of your home’s assessed value, as shown on your municipal assessment.
Here’s how the Seniors Property Tax Deferral Program works: The Alberta government will pay the property taxes to your municipality on your behalf and you will repay the loan with interest (currently at Prime 3%) when you sell your home, are no longer eligible for the loan, or sooner if you choose. The interest rate is variable and is reviewed every six months. The program charges simple interest rather than compound interest, meaning interest is charged only on the original amount of the loan. For more detailed information, it is best to ask your local FCSS coordinator or call Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free 1-877-644-9992, or 780-644-9992 in the Edmonton area.
You often see elementary school kids holding back, standing in the wings, perhaps a bit shy about not knowing what to do at an adult event. Not so with this Warburg School group! They immediately got down to business helping out. The students’ polite, excellently executed and attentive service during the luncheon—whether it was delivering coffee, bringing a missed serviette without being asked, bussing the used plates and cups, or running door prizes to winners—their actions caught Pawlechko’s attention. She was heard to say this was the best group of helpful kids she’s ever seen at these events—and she attends plenty!
Even more impressive when you realize, “These kids did not receive any advanced training for helping with the luncheon, just what they received when they got to the hall,” said Mrs. Meyer. “They just go there and shine.” Well done, students!
Leduc County Parks and Recreation Summer Program Coordinators Nicole Sagen and Nicole Harrish were on hand to give away door prizes.
Sara Russell, Community Support Coordinator for Leduc County FCSS introduced the new Leduc County Seniors Services Coordinator, Carla Liepert, who will be coordinating various seniors programs, subsidies and pensions.
Russell said the local FCSS and Leduc County FCSS work together as a multi-municipal partnership. Seniors may go to whichever FCSS is most convenient. So if a senior is heading to the city and it is closer to stop by the County FCSS that day, please feel free to do so.
Leduc County FCSS gave away caps and some door prizes as well. One prize served as a visual reminder of the available 65+ housekeeping program—a bucket and mop and cleaning supplies.
Everyone, including the student volunteers, went home with a potted plant of their choice—tomato or floral.
Special kudos to Warburg FCSS Coordinator Marj Savage, chief cook and bottle washer (literally, we have photographic proof!), for all your amazing efforts in organizing this event.