Hartford faces its annual go-around with the reality that expenses outrun the city’s ability to pay. Every year it seems that we face disaster and somehow balance the books.
This year, however, dire rumors fly through city hall about an impending tax increase. That is the easy way, raise taxes and keep the employees, those dependent on the city and the bond holders happy. This thinking is what got us to this situation in the first place.
A mill rate of over 70 is the cause of the continuing economic decline (in available tax dollars and jobs) that affect everyone in the city. We've protected homeowners - their taxes will go up slightly - while ruining many apartment owners. We cast our net for new business while driving out investments in business personal property with taxes over double our next door neighbors. Just look at Day Hill Road in Windsor. One high official in State development remarked that taxes make his job - with lots of State incentives - of bringing business to Hartford very difficult. Working and investing in the city, only to see most of the "profit" go to high taxes is a non-starter for most.
The worst part of the system is that it punishes success. If your building is doing well your assessment goes up. If you bring in new equipment, the tax bill is staggering. Every time we see a new restaurant with brand new shiny equipment, we guess just when it will close. New facilities cannot compete with the guy down the street using good old stoves and second-hand tables and chairs.
Another office in city hall tells us that more and more people are setting up home businesses, and, of course, Aetna has 43% of its employees working from home. The city can't tax kitchen tables. Office space needs office workers and if that space is empty, it can't, or won't, pay full taxes.
And it's going to get worse. With 3-D printers coming on, every cellular will be a mini-factory (so much for gun control) plunking out a whole new underground economy. A laptop, a 3-D printer, a P.O. box, Ebay, and Federal Express and everybody is in business -without paying the city any taxes. Some say – and boy, it would be hard to swallow – that an increased sales tax or value added tax is the only answer. Raising property taxes will only destroy any incentive and drive more business away or underground.