Why is West Hartford repeating Southington’s mistake?

In Southington last fall, the Democratic town council decided to enact a new ordinance to freeze the property taxes of low-income elderly homeowners without having an asset test as part of the equation.

That’s exactly what West Hartford is eyeing now.

The council in Southington got a shock, however, when residents banded together to force a referendum on the issue. They wound up killing the measure by a 2-to-1 margin at the polls, partly from seniors upset they didn’t qualify and partly from younger residents angry they were going to have to pick up more of the tax burden.

As best I can tell, and I might be wrong, no town has successfully implemented this freeze idea because there isn’t a good way to do it. Moreoever, as officials have studied it in town after town, they have usually discovered, to their surprise, that existing tax breaks already provide an awful lot of help for low-income seniors.

This isn’t the slam dunk to get elderly votes that town leaders seem to think it is. It’s got the potential to divide our town between old and young, and rich and poor. Let’s not go that way. It won’t work and it’s bad policy.

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3 Comments

Filed under News, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Town government

3 responses to “Why is West Hartford repeating Southington’s mistake?

  1. As one who just moved from Los Angeles to Simsbury (well, moved back after 30 years, I grew up in West Hartford) such freezes can have drastic effects.

    In California, Prop 13 froze property taxes to whatever the purchase price was. What’s more, the property is never reassessed until it sells. Thus, the revenue derived from property taxes stays unnaturally low.

    It is unfair. Two homes next to each other have a market value of, say, $650,000. Yet one might be taxed based on a purchase price of $150,000 ten years ago and the other based on a recent sale for $650,000.

    No easy answers here.

  2. oh yes there are easy answers.. just lower everyone’s taxes 🙂

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