Bad Faith? MetroHartford abandons small businesses over the city tax bike. Big bills are coming July 1st as no deal is reached.
June 28, 2007
By Hartford Advocate
Last minute negotiations to spare Hartford's small business owners from a crippling tax increase broke down last week, leaving owners to face tax bills on July 1 that in some cases have doubled.
The talks between the Hartford Small Business Alliance and the MetroHartford Alliance, representing big business, had gone on for weeks in an attempt to reconcile two competing bail-out plans and present a united front to the legislature.
But late Thursday afternoon, small business leader Paul Mozzicato got a call from Oz Griebel, president of the MetroHartford Alliance, telling him there was "no consensus" among chamber members on a plan.
"They said, 'It's not going to happen in this session,'" said Mozzicato. "I don't understand that. All week we negotiated back and forth. They were negotiating in bad faith in my opinion."
Griebel "categorically" rejected the charge.
"We've been trying to work with all kinds of people to see if there was a way to provide temporary relief," Griebel said. "The fact is everybody couldn't come to the same place. That's what discussion is about. Trying to do something this late in the session is always a challenge."
Griebel said he will continue to meet with Mozzicato and others this week.
The plan favored by big business would have capped tax increases at 25 percent for about 400 of the most vulnerable small businesses at a cost of about $2 million. The plan put forward by the Small Business Alliance would have capped tax increases at 10 to 12 percent for all 1,500 Hartford small businesses at a cost of about $6.5 million.
The latest compromise by small business split the cost of their plan with the city. But the negotiations never reached the point of asking the city to buy in, because it lost interest once the chamber backed out, according to Mozzicato.
Sarah Barr, spokeswoman for Mayor Eddie Perez, said the city took the only action it had available to it on June 11, when it voted to phase-in the increases over five years.
Everyone concerned, including City Council President John Bazzano, agrees the phase-in buys time, but doesn't fix the problem.
"(The phase-in) is the only game in town so to speak," said Bazzano. "Our intention is to make it a temporary fix for one year to give us time to form a task force and come up with a solution everyone can be happy with."
Although the Small Business Alliance is preparing a lawsuit against the city over assessments it believes are too high, it won't help in the short term for bills that are due next week. Meanwhile, Mozzicato believes the city and big business are taking a big gamble by leaving small business owners without a real solution to their tax problem.
"I told Griebel and the mayor you're playing around with people's lives, the city is teetering," said Mozzicato.