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Tale of Two Cities

Mike McGarry

June 05, 2008

One run by a Republican, one run by a Democrat. Both suffering from loads of problems brought on by middle-class flight and economic shifts. Both with significant needy populations and recent waves of immigrants. In both towns, Democrats usually control the city council and have state delegates made up of all Democrats.

The big difference between the two cities, right now, is that Hartford has a tax rate for businesses of over 76 mils and New Britain has about 35 mils for everybody. So, why the difference? Is it the style – and emphasis – of governing? Is it in the residential base of the grand list? Is it the cost of governing?

All of the above. Mayor Stewart of New Britain has the idea that the growth of the grand list is number one job. Mayor Perez has taken on the role of super superintendent of schools. New Britain has Carvel, Hartford lost Metlife.

New Britain does benefit from a stronger homeowner base and a run up in interest in its real estate (maybe because of a low mil rate?). It’s reval actually kind of worked, higher home taxes but lower car and business levies. That’s the way it should be but in Hartford all reval did was raise small business taxes 100% over the course of 5 years.

Now to the big nut – cost of governing. Hartford’s mayor makes $139,000, New Britain’s mayor makes $88,000. Hartford council members are paid $15,000 and each has a full-time aide. New Britain council members get $3,500 and there is just one aide for the lot of them. Hartford has more parkland, more libraries, more school buildings per capita than New Britain. Everything is more expensive in River City.

Another big difference is police. New Britain is roughly two-thirds the size (in population and area)of Hartford. But New Britain has only 158 sworn officers while Hartford’s goal is 500. Somebody is doing something right in the Hardware City.

This cannot continue if Hartford is to remain competitive – even with other Connecticut cities like New Britain. The bandaids (8% department cuts) have been all used, Hartford now must drastically change its ways – or – here comes the judge.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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