Bill Limiting City's Assessment-Rate Hikes Clears House
June 04, 2011
City property assessments would increase by 3.5 percent next year and vary in the years afterward under legislation approved by the state House of Representatives Friday.
Similar bills addressing the city's property assessment have been passed for the last 30 years.
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, city Assessor Lawrence LaBarbera said.
The lower rate - most municipalities assess at 70 percent of market value - was established to ease the tax burden on residents, who would have faced drastic increases, he 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 at about 30 percent of market value.
But in this year's bill, future assessment rates would be tied to how much the city collects in taxes, said state Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, who co-sponsored the measure.
If the city raises taxes beyond the rate of inflation in a given fiscal year, property assessments would increase by any amount over 3.5 percent, Ritter said.
However, if the city reduces its tax levy by at least a half-percent over the previous fiscal year, the assessment rate would not go up, Ritter said. If the tax levy increases at the rate of inflation, assessments would increase by 3.5 percent, he said.
Ritter said if the bill doesn't pass, residents' property taxes could double because the city wouldn't have permission to assess at the lower 30 percent rate. Beginning July 1, the city's tax rate will be 72.29 mills.
The bill was co-sponsored by all members of the Hartford delegation except state Rep. Kelvin Roldan, who was one of only six legislators to vote against the measure Friday.
"This legislation mandates that homeowners in this city will pay an ever larger share of the city's tax bill so that large corporations, many of which generated record profits this year, can pay even less in taxes," Roldan said in a statement. "Giving corporate tax breaks subsidized by Hartford homeowners is not good [for] our residents. I look forward to working toward a more equitable solution."
The bill will now go to the state Senate.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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