July 11-18, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Small business owners and others gave Hartford City Council an earfull on the city’s continuing tax crisis at a public hearing Monday night. Questions and complaints were many but answers were in short supply.
Gary Pelletier, owner of Hillside Automotive on Hillside Avenue, seemed to sum up the feelings of many city business owners who are facing a drastic hike in their taxes when he said, “I’m at my wits end...I don’t want to leave, that’s not my goal. But I may have to take the hit and go. What the answer is, I don’t know. I’m not smart enough when it comes to city finances. I’m looking to you [City Council] for an answer.”
The “answer” to the City’s tax woes may be developed by a study group that is being formed to look into Hartford’s entire property tax system. Councilman Ken Kennedy said Council has reached an agreement about forming such a group and is working on the details.
Such a study group was requested in the third of three proposed resolutions that had been submitted to Council last week by the Hartford Small BUsiness Alliance (HSBA). The other two are that the City immediately start the process of doing a revised tax revaluation and that the City make approximately $20 million in emergency cuts to its budget for the upcoming year. Paul Mozzicato demanded that Council make a special motion and debate all three motions at its meeting following the hearing.
Mozzicato opened his turn at the podium on an ominous note, saying, “The city is no longer teetering on the edge, it’s over the cliff.”
Several of those who spoke at Monday’s public hearing complained about difficulties in obtaining information on the city’s tax process. ormer City Councilman John O’Connell said he had been repeatedly frustrated when seeking facts and figures from City officials. “If I can’t get the data and you [City Council] can’t get the data, that’s a problem,” he said. O’Connell added, “Council has very clear authority in budget matters...you have to use it.”
In response to O’Connell and others who voiced similar complaints about difficulties in getting information from City Hall, Kennedy responded, “If you are having trouble, we have to move on that and get you those documents.”
Councilman Pedro Segarra said that he is going to have a meeting with Corporation Counsel John Rose regarding a Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed by the HSBA. Mozzicato, leader of the HSBA responded, “We’re ready to meet when you are.” Segarra added that he believes the information requested by the HSBA will soon be made available for public review but it may not be in all the formats which were requested in the FOI, such as PDF and Excell documents.