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City Considers New Property Tax Option

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

May 28, 2009

The city is running numbers to figure out whether it makes sense to delay the phase-in of this year's property revaluation.

Councilman Matt Ritter said he and at least one other on the city council have asked the city to do the math and figure out if a revaluation delay would make sense. Such a move would mean the city would collect the same amount of tax revenue from its property owners, but the breakdown of who pays how much - from homeowners to commercial real estate owners - could change.

"When you delay reval, all you're doing is putting off the eventual pain for somebody," Ritter said. "But the question is, who's pain is that?" (Getty Images)

According to a Courant story this week, Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a new law earlier this month allowing municipalities to delay revaluation. The law gives towns and cities the option through 2011 to halt revaluation and defer the effect that recent revaluations have on property assessments.

"Property values that were revalued two to three years ago - the economy has changed so fundamentally that, in many cases, they are injustices to homeowners," Ritter said. "You've got to be creative and look at all options."

Asked for comment, Sarah Barr, spokeswoman for Mayor Eddie A. Perez, said in an email that the city is "still crunching numbers and [it's] way too premature to talk about it."

In 2006, a long-delayed property revaluation saw some commercial property values go up and residential property values skyrocket. Left untouched, the revaluation would have resulted in drastically higher property values and crushing taxes for many of the city's homeowners.

The state legislature eventually passed a plan that allowed the city to phase in its revaluation and cap annual tax increases for homeowners due to the revaluation at 3.5 percent. At the same time, the legislature approved a plan to reduce the longtime 15 percent surcharge on commercial property, supported by larger commercial property owners.

Those two fixes, though, left small-business owners - both those who own their properties and those who rent - displeased. By the time the next year's tax bills were being prepared, it was clear that the small-business owners would be picking up a lot of the slack.

Perez's proposed a $547.6 million budget for next year that promises an 13 percent tax increase for homeowners and a potentially 20 percent to 30 percent increase for small business property owners. The city council cut $19 million from Perez's budget, but he followed with vetoes that restored $13 million of that.

The council is in the midst of considering the mayor's vetoes.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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