Legislation That Would Provide $8 Million For Hartford Budget Dies
Measure Also Called For State Review Of City's Tax Structure
By JENNA CARLESSO
May 09, 2012
HARTFORD —— A measure that would have provided the city with $8 million needed to balance its 2012-13 budget and called for a state review of Hartford’s tax structure died on the House calendar Wednesday when the legislative session ended at midnight.
The city’s legislative delegation earlier in the day reached a deal on the bill, which called for a review of the tax system by the state’s municipal finance advisory commission. The commission, appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, would have assessed the city’s property taxes going as far back as 1979, and made suggestions for improvements, said state Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford.
Hartford’s tax structure has a complicated history.
The assessment rate for city homeowners was lowered to about 30 percent of market value in the late 1970s, in part to encourage homeownership and in part because the city had postponed property revaluation since the 1950s. The lower rate was established to ease the tax burden on residents, who would have faced drastic increases, city officials have said.
Since then, the legislature has passed a bill at the end of each revaluation cycle — every 10 years in the 1980s and 1990s, and every five since the law changed in 2004 — to keep the assessment rate near 30 percent of market value. The rest of the state’s cities and towns, and commercial businesses in Hartford, are taxed at a higher assessment rate of 70 percent.
The new bill would have allowed the city council to raise the assessment ratio for apartment properties from 50 percent to as much as 70 percent — providing money that Mayor Pedro Segarra needs to balance his budget. Segarra had already built the $8 million into his budget proposal for next year.
The mayor has said that if the legislation didn’t get signed into law, he likely would have to increase the city’s tax rate by 6.5 mills — three mills higher than he originally planned to raise it — and explore further cuts in spending. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
“I’m extremely disillusioned,” Segarra said late Wednesday. “We’ve worked very hard to get a bill passed and we’ll just have to continue to work. I’m not giving up on planning a solution.”
Ritter said Wednesday evening that a disagreement between the city’s legislative delegation and the MetroHartford Alliance prevented the bill from moving forward.
“Especially late in the session, people look for unanimous support,” he said. “If you have chamber of commerce and a delegation not in agreement, you have people saying you have to work it out. I think anyone who was up here for the last few days could attest to how hard we all worked, but we just couldn’t bridge the divide.”
The measure would have had to be approved by the House and Senate and then signed into law by Malloy. It was proposed Wednesday after two others stalled at the Capitol.
One of the bills — House bill 5317 — would have given the city council the power to tinker with the assessment ratio for apartments. Another — Senate bill 399 — would have increased the assessment ratio for apartments to 70 percent, up from 50, over the course of three years. It also would have raised the assessment ratio for residential property owners to 30.5 percent, up from 29.2, next year, and required the city to spend 65 percent of revenue brought from new growth in its grand list on reducing the tax rate.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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