A year ago, Hartford small business owners warned they wouldn't survive a 100 percent increase in property taxes. Tough luck.
By Daniel D'Ambrosio
May 15, 2008
It's been more than a year since Hartford's small business owners realized they were getting slammed with up to 100 percent increases in their property taxes, and all of their efforts to do something about it have failed.
At Monday night's City Council meeting, Paul Mozzicato of Mozzicato's Bakery and Kelly D'Aprile of D&D Market, both on Franklin Avenue, made a last-ditch appeal to the council to give them some relief. But Sarah Barr, director of communications for Mayor Eddie Perez, said Tuesday help will have to come from the state legislature.
"Absent of real property tax reform at the state level, small business owners and all taxpayers are going to be suffering," Barr said. "It's particularly unfair to cities."
The 100 percent increase is being phased in over five years in 20 percent chunks, which amounts to increases of about $9 million yearly for small business, according to Paul Tornatore of Gordon Bonetti Florist.
"We're left with no help; we're facing a 20 percent increase again," Tornatore said.
The Franklin Avenue florist says his accountant told him he'll be paying the city about $500 a week in real and personal property taxes this year.
"That's a full-time employee we're going to have to lay off," said Tornatore.
A statement from the Hartford Small Business & Taxpayer Alliance made it clear they don't want vital services cut from the budget.
"We recognize Hartford's needs and are not suggesting cuts to critical police, fire and social service requirements, rather we are suggesting reviews of non-recurring expenditures, timing of reserve additions, creative debt financing and consolidations of pension expenses where possible," reads the statement.
Tornatore says the dire predictions made by small business owners a year ago are bound to come true in the coming months.
"It's devastating to small business," he said. "You're going to see them closing like crazy."
Mayor Eddie Perez launched a property tax task force to study the problem last year. Tornatore served on the task force, which he said spun its wheels. None of its recommendations to the city or state went anywhere, and Perez disbanded the task force in January.
"The city council did not follow any of our recommendations at all," said Tornatore. "The state [legislative] delegation couldn't get it together to present anything through a committee."
Asked to give an example of a task force's recommendation, Tornatore pointed to reinstating a utility property tax on power lines and other assets, which he said would help every city in the state. That tax has been phased out over the past five years, according to Tornatore. He said the City of Hartford would realize $6.5 million to $8 million for the year from reinstating that tax alone.
After Monday night's City Council meeting, Mozzicato reflected on the complacency surrounding the tax issue, and said things would likely be different in 2010 when the cap on tax increases for single-family homes expires, and homeowners face large increases.
"This is not about profits any more," said Mozzicato. "The city is imploding."