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City's Grand List Drops 1.2 Percent

February 8, 2005
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer

Hartford's list of taxable property has declined, despite a flurry of development in the city.

When the city took a snapshot of its "grand list" last October, a new Wal-Mart was close to completion, a portion of the Colt building was renovated and occupied by a data management company and several housing units were rising downtown. But that growth in real property value was offset by the accounting vagaries of a few large businesses and the problem of being a state capital: The amount of state-affiliated (and, therefore, tax-exempt) properties continued to grow.

All told, when tax season comes around this year, Hartford will be relying on $43 million less in taxable property than it did last year, according to the recently released 2004 grand list.

"We have to make up for that someplace," said city Finance Director Thomas Morrison, who ticked off two solutions - an increase in taxes or a decrease in spending.

The grand list finalized last week shows that the value of taxable property in Hartford declined from $3.5 billion in 2003 to $3.46 billion last year, or a decrease of 1.2 percent. Taxable real estate was up slightly by 0.14 percent, as were motor vehicle values, which rose by 4.4 percent.

But that growth was offset by a $57 million decrease in the value of personal property, which is all the equipment and supplies used to run a business.

City Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera says the decrease in personal property was influenced by three companies that reported dramatic decreases in personal property last year.

UnitedHealthcare reported $15 million in taxable personal property - half of what it reported the year before, LaBarbera said.

UnitedHealthcare spokeswoman Debora Spano said that the decrease came because the company realized that its software was not taxable under personal property.

"We overpaid in the previous year," Spano said.

MCI also reduced by $6 million the amount of personal property it reported.

"They've moved some of [their equipment] out of the city to other offices, not in Hartford," LaBarbera said.

The city is completing an audit of MCI's reporting, he said.

A tax appeal on a third property, an energy plant on Capitol Avenue that no longer produces energy, meant a devaluation of that property's value by $11 million in the eyes of the city tax collector.

Then there's the usual story line for Hartford come grand list time: The amount of tax-exempt property grew last year - by $47 million.

Of that, $39 million is in state exempt properties, which includes the value - as of Oct. 1 - of the partially built convention center and hotel at Adriaen's Landing, LaBarbera said. It also includes a building on Washington Street, once assessed at $1.9 million, that the state is now leasing.

"They called us up and said, `The state's leasing it, it's exempt now.' We're like: `OK, there's nothing else to say,'" LaBarbera said.

Also included in this year's tax-exempt list are the new Boys and Girls Club on Sigourney Street, a magnet school on Woodland Street and a new church housed in a former warehouse on Wethersfield Avenue.

Of all the real property that makes up Hartford's grand list, 43 percent of it is tax-exempt.

"This is a big thing for us," Morrison said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
Top 10
Hartford's Top 10 taxpayers and their total assessments (real and personal property) in 2004:

1. Hartford Fire Insurance & Twin City Insurance, $122,642,160

2. Travelers Indemnity Co., $103,765,560

3. Connecticut Light & Power, $97,727,400

4. Aetna Life Insurance Co. & Annuity, $89,622,850

5. CityPlace I LTD Partnership, $65,100,000

6. State House Financial, $53,265,870

7. Hartford Steam Boiler, $43,750,930

8. Bank of Boston, CT, $41,073,410

9. Talcott II Gold, LLC, $38,138,900

10. Fleet Bank NA (Fleet Boston Financial), $37,506,970

Source: City of Hartford


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