Hartford Faces $8 Million Budget Hit If Legislation Fails
By JENNA CARLESSO
May 08, 2012
HARTFORD —— Two pieces of legislation that would each provide the city with about $8 million in property tax revenue needed to balance Mayor Pedro Segarra's 2012-13 budget are still in limbo with fewer than two days left in the regular session.
Segarra, who supported both bills during various stages of the session, said at least one of the bills must pass to get the roughly $8 million he has already built into his budget proposal for next year.
One bill would give the city council the power to raise the assessment ratio for apartment properties —buildings with four or more units — from 50 to as much as 70 percent, said state Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, a co-sponsor of the measure. Currently, apartment properties are assessed at 37.6 percent of their 2006 fair market values. But next year, that rate will rise to 50 percent and could go up as high as 70 percent under the bill, which was approved by the House and is before the Senate.
A second bill would make numerous changes, including increasing the assessment ratio for apartments to 70 percent, up from 50, over the course of three years. It would also raise the assessment ratio for residential property owners to 30.5 percent, up from 29.2, next year, and require the city to spend 65 percent of revenue brought from new growth in its grand list on reducing the tax rate. That bill was approved by the Senate and is now on the House calendar.
Ritter said the bill before the House — Senate bill 399 — is a "substantial bill" that would require lengthy discussions.
"It's hard to turn around such a big bill in such a short period of time," he said. "We all work very hard, but at some point, the clock becomes the enemy."
Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, a co-sponsor of Senate bill 399, said he's still optimistic that it will pass. But he said the other measure — House bill 5317 — must go to the finance committee before the Senate can vote on it.
Segarra said Tuesday that if neither bill passes, the city could face a tax rate increase of as much as 6.5 mills next year. He had already proposed an increase of 3.5 mills, but said he would have to raise that to make up for the $8 million shortfall. A mill is equal to one dollar for every $1,000 of assessed property.
"What I'm asking them to do is to come together and come to some agreement to avert a [further] mill rate increase," he said. "I am doing what I need to do. They need to help here." He said he has visited the Capitol multiple days in a row to advocate for the bills.
He said he is concerned about the property owners who would be affected by the measures, but added: "I'm even more concerned about residential property owners subsidizing the apartments, which are basically a business venture."
The regular session ends Wednesday at midnight.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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