May 31, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
Corporate Hartford has weighed in on a proposal to spare small businesses from crushing tax increases and delay property revaluation for a year. And it doesn't like it.
That's not to say that the city's bigger businesses aren't interested in finding a solution to the problem that some smaller-business owners say could force them to leave town. In fact, small- and big-business leaders met on Tuesday to discuss their options.
But for the corporate folks, the moratorium is a non-starter.
"There was a clear understanding that there wasn't going to be a lot of time talking about whether we should have a moratorium or not," said R. Nelson "Oz" Griebel, head of the MetroHartford Alliance, the region's chamber of commerce. "We then moved from that to say, `OK, if not a moratorium, what other options are there?' And that's the discussion that's been going on."
The current problem stems from a 2006 revaluation of city property that saw values soar, particularly for residential property owners. Subsequent legislation to protect homeowners left small businesses taking the biggest hit. That hit, most agree, was unanticipated.
Last week, small-business owners, city political leaders, and some members of the city's state legislative delegation got behind a proposal to delay implementing the new revaluation with the unexpected slam on small businesses. Now the task is to convince the Hartford delegation and the rest of the legislature that it deserves support.
But on Tuesday, the corporate community made its position clear in a meeting with small-business owner Paul Mozzicato and others.
Tuesday's discussion began on bigger business's premise that revaluation should go forward, as would the planned phase-out of the city's 15 percent surcharge on commercial property, Griebel said.
"It's only going to exacerbate the problem," Griebel said of the proposed moratorium. "After all the work that went into this last year by a number of leaders, I think it would be a significant step backward for all of us to reverse course."
Griebel said no solution has been agreed upon, but any solution would be a one-year fix while everyone works to find a better legislative solution to the problem.
"This is all very `blue sky,' so take this with a grain of salt," Griebel said. But the question on the table, he said, is: "Is there a way to transfer some of [the increase on small businesses] back onto other properties?"
Mozzicato said that while his colleagues still support the moratorium, they're happy that Griebel and the alliance are interested in talking about other options.
"We're shooting for a moratorium, this is what we want," Mozzicato said. "I'm just trying to be realistic."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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