Bye, Theresa! Taxpayer prez says she’s moving

“I myself am not able to afford to live in this town,” [Theresa] McGrath said. She said her agenda was to cut taxes. “I don’t want to move. I’m going to have to move,” she said.

Maybe I’m crazy, but if West Hartford Taxpayer co-prez Theresa McGrath is moving, why is she setting our community’s agenda? If she’s “going to have to move” then why is she given any attention at all? I can barely afford to stay, but I’m staying. She isn’t, apparently, so why do we care what she says?

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120 Comments

Filed under budget, News, referendum, Theresa McGrath, West Hartford Taxpayers Association

120 responses to “Bye, Theresa! Taxpayer prez says she’s moving

  1. Now, I disagree with Ms. McGrath’s political opinions, but I think it’s wrong to disregard what people say on the way out. Not that she should be “setting our community’s agenda”, but she has one valuable perspective on the town, what it is, has been and could be.

    That said, if Ms. McGrath knew that rejecting the budget (saving her, potentially, hundreds of dollars a year) was not going to be enough to get her to stay, she should have said so before the referendum. And, of course, as much as I would like to see economic diversity in my new town, neither Ms. McGrath nor I have some sort of inherent right to either transform West Hartford into a low-tax, low-service, low-property-value town we can afford to live in or declare ourselves exempt from the cost of living in a high-tax, high-service, high-property-value town. There are lots of places I can’t afford to live.

    Thanks,
    -V.

  2. Whitecar

    You really are right Vard – it’s not as if this was a low rent, low service, low tax town for decades and all of a sudden this got sprung on people. There are places I can’t afford to live either, but if I want certain things, I have to pay for them. I’d love a new BMW 5 series, but I can’t afford it. Now because I have to have a car, does that mean BMW has to drop the price to the point I can afford it? I’ll check w/ the guys in Bavaria but I’m guessing the answer will be no. If the majority of WH residents want the town to remain a high service, high rent, enviable town, and they’re willing to pay the taxes to make it happen, then the McGrath’s of the world will in fact have to move out. The reverse is also true, if the majority of people in town want WH to be low service, minimal taxes, then the people who want the things that make WH special (schools, public safety, recreation, etc.) will move and find those things elsewhere. The question is, what kind of town do we want WH to be? Are we moving toward being a Fairfield/Glastonbury, or a Bristol/Manchester? At the end of the day, it’s one or the other, WH is either (relative to other communities in the state) improving or slipping. Which is it going to be?

  3. John Webster

    I thought is was the 7,893 people who voted against the budget that set the agenda. Like it or not this is how the process works. I am just thankful we have folks like Theresa McGrath who are willing to put forth the effort to give the taxpayers of West Hartford the opportunity to express our opinions on the budget.

  4. EJ

    McGrath finds herself in a position where the tax increases over the next 5 years may very well push her out of her home. I’ve seen her home it is far from mansion size and she has chosen to fight for it. That is her privilege and right. That is also the right of other parents, the elderly and those middle classers who may be on the margin. These are all valuable people in the community.

    I’ve seen on this blog comments on how Elmwood is the starting point for those climbing the ladder out of Hartford. Is it the desire of those who think the BOE is entitled to all asked for to keep these people out of town – economic descrimination – goodbye to the diversity you all claim to love.

    It still comes down to accountability by the town. Taxes have to be paid, but the Council also has to understand the homeowner/taxpayer is not a bottomless well.

    When an Attorney and his family of 3 might be forced to leave town due to taxes pushing them over the line, I find that scary.

  5. Maybe she can afford to live in Bristol or Manchester, but I doubt it. The reality is that you either spend the money to keep the town nice or you wind up spending just as much to deal with the problems that result from slipping standards. Either way, you pay.

  6. Joe Visconti

    The Education Cartel Wants Your Home and so don’t the AFSME Crowd!

    Thats right folks, seven Unions are negotiating with Mr. Francis right now and into the summer months as he stated last night. He would like to ask for a freeze but, but, but. Binding arb? I will be there and get the names of those who represent the special interest. As for Theresa? what about Barbara Carpenter, the Union Jackal who asked questions of the cost of educating children in West Hartford Last night and other Real estate inquirey’s. What’s with that Barbara, since you didn’t allow an alternate to sit in your place last night are you asking for the Data to use for your new Union Job as Prez? Oh, I’m sorry you will abstain sta sera ( tonight in Italian , not spanish). Whdad, just who are you? I am going to do my best to find your identity, it may be as hard as Mr Goshdigians attempt at getting MR Francis to give up data but I am going to try.
    Next for all you Info Wizards out there, can anyone obtain the Binding Arbitration and Collective Bargaining laws so we can see if we can attend these closed door settings before we get sold out again by the Verrengia’s and Carpenters of the World? Also can we televise them? I have the Proffesional Television Camera and can put up 10 minute snipets on YouTube. Lets chase down these Special Interest Foxes on Horesback all summer !!!

  7. TWC

    As I suggested at last night’s Town Council meeting, driving the Theresa McGraths out of West Hartford because of high taxes is only one portion of the equation that will result in West Hartford evolving into a Town without a vibrant middle-class of young white families.

    If this Town continues its current practice of diminishing the educational opportunities for our most gifted children (e.g., by abolishing Quest), while lavishing a disproportionate amount of constitutionally questionable funding on only two of our eleven elementary schools (i.e., the racial balancing “enhancements” at Charter Oak and Smith), parents like me that detest busing, but can’t afford private schools, are going to start looking for better places to raise and educate our children.

    Anyone know a good realtor in Simsbury, Avon, or Glastonbury?

  8. TWC

    Sorry; I see that the hyperlink in my last comment has a syntax problem. (It sure would be nice to have a “Preview” feature like many other blogs offer.)

    See http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_6226260 for the latest take on the upcoming Supreme Court decision.

  9. Whitecar

    I don’t live in either smith or charter oak districts but it seems to me that you put your resources where they’re needed, kids at bugbee and norfeldt are going to be fine, as are the high test scores they continue to produce. The populations at smith and CO, and to an extent Web Hill and Whiting lane demand more attention and resources – cut those resources, those schools (and the test scores) suffer and WH slips even further. The schools on the border are where the educational battle for WH is being fought, if we lose that fight than it’s just a matter of time before the only difference between East and West hartford will be their location vis a vis the CT river.

  10. Joe Visconti

    The God of Education has more than enough support from his Congregation of Believers. Amen Brothers and Sisters it’s time for those who cannot afford higher taxes to be Raptured to Manchester and Bristol, where the homily of “Taxes in the Highest” has been removed and the meek have inherited a lower quality of life which can still be called home!

  11. Whitecar

    Testify brother joe! testify!

  12. TWC

    Hey Whitecar, I’ll leave it to someone else to argue whether or not it makes long-term sense for a society to “fund to the test scores” (a variation on the “teach to the test scores” that I already know has diminished the quality of education my kids receive in this Town). After all, it would be hypocritical of me to advocate for the special needs of the gifted kids in this Town (e.g., Quest) but deny the special needs of the Charter Oak and Smith students struggling to succeed.

    The type of thing that concerns me is the proposed implementation of the significant upgrade in technology at Charter Oak and Smith. As one speaker put it last night, has anyone demonstrated a direct and immediate connection between this upgrade in technology and improving the reading comprehension of the underperforming students at these two schools? Wouldn’t a wiser investment be to hire reading specialists or parent educators?

    No, instead the BOE has “promised” these funds in the hope of attracting a few more white kids to Charter Oak and Smith—a plan that we all know won’t work and very well may be declared unconstitutional within the next few days.

  13. Mike

    As a parent of kids at one of our “border” schools (Wolcott), I have to say they are doing a great job. And as for the technological upgrades at Charter Oak and Smith, I had teachers at my school tell me there were smart boards stacked up unused at Charter Oak – it’s not the tech stuff, it’s geting the teachers to embrace them and use them.

  14. Citizen Kane

    Gee Whdad, Kathy Wilson said she was moving too – mostly because she feels she isn’t being taxed enough -.why aren’t you blogging about her statement? Looks like you may be playing favorites here.
    Guess you’d rather tax lower class riff raff right out of town.. so much for desire for “diversity”, or does diversity just mean you want more colorful faces in town (rich black people et. al., would do just fine, all others need not apply). Poorer white people and the elderly can just start packing their bags, because who needs them anyway. They are just such a drag, socio-economically speaking. Sheesh, they wouldn’t bother to go into town to buy a latte or eat at a fancy new steakhouse, so who needs them.
    Yeah, people like Theresa and the 7,892 others just want to bring us down man. We’d much prefer the Kathy Wilsons who feed on taxpayers like a tick feeds on a dog.

  15. Wow, whdad! Torpedoes away, eh? Why not just open the gates and let the Christians get eaten by the lions?

    Just say AUF WIEDERSEHEN to anyone who might take issue with the budget? Particularly, target anyone who might lead a group of vigilante taxpayers who want to see some spending reform and accountability. Well, I guess you called her out. Out of all the rhetoric last night – you chose this topic to run with in today’s Blog headline?

    Jesh, did Theresa harm you in this life or the last?

    Why do we care about what Theresa says? We care about what she says because whether she’s moving or staying – the the problem exists… ding ding ding… 6% tax increase, YEARLY increases, spending unchecked, BoE budget keeps on expanding, Joe V’s unions goosestepping down Main Street with their Queen on the Council – calling the shots. C’mon. Where’s the balance?

    And by the way, its NOT the job of the TAXPAYERS to justify WHY the budget should be reduced, its up to the Council to justify WHY the money must be spent – why taxes must rise every year! Let’s get it right!

  16. Joe Visconti

    Amen Lord Millrate, Amen!!!!

  17. TWC

    I missed everything in tonight’s Council meeting but the vote: 8-0-1 (Sinatro abstained).

    Can someone who was watching from the start of this meeting provide a brief summary of what just got passed? Specifically, was the BOE budget spared?

  18. Gary Reger

    We watched the whole Council meeting tonight. The Board of Education offered up $500,000 in reductions tied to a promise that all that money would come from administrative lines — nothing from the classroom. On that basis, the Council accepted the Board’s offer. In the end, the budget passed represents a 0% increase in spending, but because of the effects of revaluation (which increased by 10% the proportion of total Town revenue coming from residential properties) residents will see property taxes (on houses) rise by 4.51% (I think I remember this figure correctly). Cuts include laying off 17 part-time town employees and Friday closings of branch libraries (but not the main library once it reopens). Leaf collection, senior centers, and outdoor pools were spared cutbacks. There are other details which I don’t recall (I didn’t take notes).

  19. TWC

    Wow…I have to assume that Theresa, Joe, and the rest of the WHTA folks are celebrating tonight. No pain and agony of a second referendum, right guys?

    But for those of us who may have some concerns regarding how the BOE was able to scrape up another $500,000 of budget reductions “not impacting the classroom,” has anyone seen the finallist of cuts?

  20. Joe Visconti

    I will oppose any second referendum attempt. It’s time to move on.

  21. Gary Reger

    The Board of Education meets tomorrow, I presume to finalize their cuts. The proposed cuts published on June 25 (see http://www.whps.org/board/Budget%20update%20-%20June%2025.pdf) amount, in Group A, to just over $304,000 and include items I would regard as affecting the classroom. I guess we will see tomorrow.

  22. EJ

    Since Kevin Sullivan appeared to be collecting names of people looking for higher taxes last night, he is probably the one check with on a 2nd referendum. If indeed that is what he wants good luck looking for signatures to raise taxes.

    As far as I can tell the WHTA has no desire for a 2nd referendum. This budget battle is over for now. Next year may be another story.

    Maybe someone at the BOE can elaborate where the $500K magically appeared from. They had a flier at the last meeting labeled BUDGET TRANSFER FUNDS (6/20/2007) from Pat Buccitelli, that listed $500K as a transfer to PREFUND the 2007/2008 Budget. DOES THIS MEAN THEY HAD $500K LEFT OVER FROM LAST YEAR that they just happened to magically find? That is certainly what it looks like.

    At the same time this $5ooK was floating around (6/20)they were passing around sheets showing deeper classroom cuts with no mention of the $500K (last nights council meeting)

  23. EJ

    BTW, now that it is over and taxes were not raised is Kathy Wison still planning on leaving town?

  24. 4.51% is no victory for those of us fiscal responsibility folks.

    You surrender too easily, Joe. The forces of high taxes know that eventually we (apparently) just move on. So they start scheming and dreaming about 10%, get it to 6%, and settle for 4.51%. 4.51% a year or more will do ya. We’ll get more next year – just wait.

    Man, I’m glad you guys weren’t a Yorktown.

  25. EJ

    The King, you’re right 4.51% still hurts, but reval was going to do that with no effort from the BOE or Council. The WHTA was looking for a spending cap of 2.5% and we beat that (depending on how you look at the numbers). There was little to gain from trying for another referendum.

    I think the Council came in where they did just for those reasons. 1- If the WHTA went for another referendum they could then be smeared in the press worse than they were the 1st time 2- If there was to be a 2nd referendum this would have dragged on until Sept., The Council wanted to avoid this. Otherwise this would have been fresh in everyone’s minds for the election. They did not want that.

    The next thing to do is to try to open up Charter revision for Prop 2.5!

  26. EJ

    The 2nd point of what follows next will be the contract negotiations this summer. I believe 7 contracts are up for renewal. If the Town rolls over the problem will be compounded over the next 4 years. If indeed, as has been stated here, everyone is to share the pain then the Town will negotiate hard for a change.

    I think the Council was stunned to see the almost 3:1 margin against this years budget. It may be that the days of East Money are over in this town and i think the Council realizes people know that they’re getting tax increases over the next 5 years with no increased spending. We’ll know soon enough if they’ve gotten the message.

  27. Joe Visconti

    King

    All effort should now turn to monitoring the Unions as the town presses them for Pay freeze’s. Does anyone know when the P0lice and Fireman go in for collective bargaining? O% spending increase is a beginning, the Town asking the Unions for a freeze is historic.
    WHTA (which I am not a member of, but may be in the future) needs to concentrate totally for the summer on dogging the Unions to ensure the Public knows what’s going on with their Contracts.

    We all gave up when we didn’t watch the Collective Bargaining and Binding Arbitration of the Teachers Union in past years; look our Barbara Carpenter as you now assume the mantle of the Education Cartel. There will be no more Special Interest Muscling of our Treasury without the Spotlights on.

    It’s time now for the Town to spend the summer working to complete Blue Back and all the Roads, find sponsorship’s for flowers and the Town Calender and increase Volunteer Programs.

    Also I feel confident that Rich Goshdigian who has done a great job with Mr Francis, will now get the thanks of many Data nuts who may want to join him in his long crusade for equity and common sense in Budgeting and reporting. Rich has worked harder than most know for years now and should be allowed at the table to assist Mr Francis and Ms. Cantor on discovering ways to streamline all Departments and make them more open to reform.

    Linda Dinapoli, Saundra Brook and many others should also be recognized for all their volunteer efforts in trying to help the Elderly, those on fixed incomes and with young families to maintain a West Hartford address.

    For those flush with cash and holding down a good job with bright futures, please try to understand that not all are walking with such confidence these days. Many cry themselves to sleep at night if they can sleep at all. Life changing times are here for hundreds if not thousands of residents, yet their pride and dignity keep them from declaring their pain publicly. If you can give more to the Town of West Hartford monetarily please do so ,for we are our Brothers Keeper whether we like it or not.

  28. eafinct

    The budget is supposed to be ZERO increase in spending, but 4.5% increase for residential property holders. Commercial property holders will pay a little less. Car owners will pay less. I forget the other category. Can someone explain if it is mandated that the same mil rate must apply to all types of property? And if so, is that a state or a town law?

    If it is possible to have different mil rates for different types of property, then the mil rates for the various types of property could be adjusted to ease the reval pain and get back to the previous level of taxation on residential property. What kind of nutso plan makes it cheaper for folks to own big expensive gas-guzzling cars, in the current energy situation?

    Meanwhile, we need to look hard at what help is available for seniors and other fixed income folks to pay these increased residential property taxes.

  29. Gary Reger

    The Courant article today on last night’s meeting has slightly different figures from those I thought I heard and posted — in particular, they report the budget represents an increase of 2.66% overall and a rise of 4.54% on property taxes resulting from revaluation. I apologize if my figures were mistaken (though I thought I had heard correctly).

  30. Larry Jenkins

    I think an apology to Ms. McGrath is in order. Her concerns were echoed by a majority of voters in this town. As the revised budget attests, there was room for negotiation, compromise, and a healthy dose of honesty.

  31. I just called the Assessor and they said the mill rate is now 38.63. However, I also just called the Tax department and they said they had not been informed of a new mill rate yet and they don’t know if they are still doing the phase-in. They hoped to know how the new property taxes would be calculated by sometime this afternoon.

  32. EJ

    Things as usual got a bit confusing last night. I believe the 2.66% represented the raise before non-tax $ were factored in.

    I don’t recall if it was 4.51% or 4.54%. I think the Courant got the # right (Dan Jones was trying to be very careful last night). I was just parroting King before and I can’t double check the # right now.

    Cars will be taxed less for 2 reasons. 1 they depreciate and 2 the mil rate dropped from last year. Cars are not subject to REval.

  33. Osemasterofdoom

    Personally, I can tolerate an increase in property taxes in Town. Lets face it: everything is getting more expensive these days, so why should town services be any different? What upsets me is the Town Council’s apparent willingness to pass ALL of the pain onto the shoulders of taxpayers and/or the schools, without tightening its own belt. I am not a fan of the WHTA and its inflammatory, scorched-earth tactics, but I have to admit that their efforts at least got the Council’s attention.

    Also, while I give credit to Joe Visconti and others for wanting to pay attention to the upcoming salary negotiations, I am afraid that ship has already sailed. Once again I ask: has anyone ever seen a binding arb decision that did not result in a salary increase? The arbitrators who make these decisions are not answerable to anyone, least of all West Hartford taxpayers. Until the process itself is changed drastically, our negotiators and elected officials are stepping up to the plate with two strikes against them. Sure, its their own fault for their reliance on the unions to support their campaigns, but it doesn’t change the fact that we the taxpayers have already lost before the negotiations even begin.

    And please, spare me the rhetoric about how anyone willing to pay higher taxes must be part of the wealthy West Hartford elite. There are plenty of things I and my family do without in order to afford living in West Hartford. The bottom line is that some of us would rather drive a 16-year-old car and live in West Hartford than have a new vehicle and live in Bristol or East Hartford. Are there people who can’t afford to live in West Hartford? Sure there are. But as Mick and the boys say: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.” Its all about the value you place on things.

  34. WH Homeowner

    As an addendum to the issue raised by eafinct, if the total property tax revenues collected by this Town aren’t going up next year, but I’ll be shelling out 4.5% more in residential real estate taxes, then by my calculation every other type of property owner in this Town just got a tax cut.

    In effect, the money that will be stripped from my already tight family budget next year to fund this 4.5% increase will be flowing right into the pockets of all the commercial, industrial, and gas-guzzling SUV owners in Town, almost certainly the people who have the greatest ability to pay more taxes, not less.

    Until the Town provides a more convincing explanation of why the revaluations so dramatically favored the business interests in this Town over the residential property owners, the fight over this year’s budget isn’t over. Particularly if the School Board makes additional cuts tonight that result in a further deterioration of the quality of education that this Town’s kids receive in the name of tax relief for wealthy non-resident business owners.

  35. EJ

    Would you lighten up on theWHTA already!
    At Tuesday’s meeting Rich G showed how hard it was to get info from the Town in a timely manner.

    No one complained as the mayor tried to make the tax increase look smaller than it was as he went aroundt the media anouncing the 1.9% tax increase and than whispering that the typical homeowner would see a 6.6% increase; lies no, misleading yes.

    how about asking how the BOE found the $500K?

    There is no reason why you can’t get active in the WHTA if you object to the current way it is run. It is going to be long 5yrs of activity between the WHTA and the Town and neither is going away.

  36. eafinct

    Has the Board of Ed published their agenda for tonight, or an outline of where the $500,000 is coming from? I checked this morning, but what is posted on the Education section of the town website is all outdated information, from what I saw.

    Thank you, WH Homeowner, for seconding my question about why residential rates are going up if the total tax increase is zero. Were commercial and industrial properties not subject to the reval as well, or were they, but their properties did not appreciate as much as residential real estate?

  37. EJ

    Commercial and Industrial went up slower than residential. They had the numbers displayed last night and I have them at home, but I believe that the problem was Residential shifted to 70%-75% ( don’t recall the exact numbere off hand) of the tax base. Cars only account for about 6%( again don’t recall the exact figure off hand), and would not make a major dent in the tax base even if it could be taxed at a different rate.

    Which is another area the Town was misleading everyone when they talked about the tax increase they made sure to say that cars would be going down, that the difference would not be major they did not comment on.

  38. Gary Reger

    If I remember the figures right, before the revaluation residential properties contributed about 68% of total Town income; after, about 78%. The contribution of commercial properties dropped from about 16% to 15%. (Caveat: I may have misread the Power Point slides.) If these numbers are right, a great deal of the tax burden in the Town shifted to residential properties.

    When will Blueback Square begin to pay taxes? How much?

  39. EJ

    That sounds about right.
    I have the numbers at home and couldn’t remember exactly.

  40. Chuck Coursey

    Let me see if I can clear up some of the confusion.

    Last night during the Mayor’s remarks, Scott presented a chart that outlined the changes in revaluation. For the benefit for those who didn’t watch (can’t say that I don’t blame you!) or for those who did but couldn’t decipher the chart, here are the numbers:

    Grand List Composition:

    Before Reval After Reval

    Residential 69.6% 76.3%

    Commercial 16.6% 15.0%

    Personal Property 4.0% 2.6%

    Motor Vehicles 9.8% 6.1%

    Since the last revaluation, both residential and commercial properties have greatly appreciated. Residential properties, however, appreciated at a much higher rate. As a result you get the increased proportion of tax revenue going to the town budget from residential, with decreasing proportions from commercial property, residential property and motor vehicles.

  41. JTS

    BBS is already paying taxes, from what I understand not an insignificant amount. When it’s fully online it will literally dwarf every other taxable prop in town, including taubman’s little joint on new britain ave.

  42. Chuck Coursey

    Looking at my post the chart doesn’t look as clear as it did when I typed it. But I think everyone can figure it out – the numbers after each category represent before revaluation and after revaluation.

  43. Quest4MOre

    We might be in the ninth inning, but I agree that this year’s budget game “ain’t over till its over.”

    I’ve talked to some moms on the north-end recently who are feed up with the cuts that have already been made by the School Board (e.g., fewer high school and elementary school teachers, fewer new textbooks, the whacking of middle school Quest, etc.). Some have suggested a second referendum that’s focused on restoring any cuts that are judged to have a direct impact on the quality of education offered to their kids in this Town.

    I think when it finally dawns on the parents of West Hartford that (1) they get to pay higher taxes next year, (2) the quality of their kids education will be diminished from the prior year, and (3) the primary beneficiaries of all the thrashing that this Town has gone through over this year’s budget fight are the owners of commercial and industrial properties in West Hartford, you might appreciate why these moms could be a little upset.

    And if you think the WHTA crowd is tough, wait till you have to deal with some of these moms and their buddies in the PTOs. They’ll make Joe Visconti look like a cuddly teddy bear.

  44. Joe Visconti

    JTS
    I believe when BBS is fully operational it will bring in 3.8 million annually, the Mall brings in around 3 million ( Help me out here Chuck).
    The little joint on New Britain Avenue would have provided many more millions since 1995 (we suffered a ten year tax loss of over 1.5 million a year from the failed expansion of Westfarms into West Hartford). We got the traffic and Farmington made out big time in revenue from our foolish mistake. Taubman at the time was investing $110,000,000.00 of their own money and providing for all street, sewer and traffic improvements in their 1995 quest for expansion.
    Lets not bite the hand that feeds us again.

  45. Chuck Coursey

    Joe:

    With regards to BBS, your numbers are accurate but on the conservative side (I’ll get you more specific numbers later in the day).

    Even though incomplete, BBS figures to pay close to $1 million in taxes for the upcoming budget. Makes one think how things might have been different these last few months if the project could’ve started on time, providing the town with that additional $3 million in tax revenue this year.

  46. Osemasterofdoom

    Yes, by all means, lets make this a commercial vs. residential issue. As if businesses (particularly manufacturers) didn’t have enough reason to flee Connecticut, lets add a hostile municipal climate to the ever-growing list.

  47. eafinct

    What counts as “personal property” on that list, if it does not include vehicles?

  48. WH Homeowner

    I think Joe Visconti and his WHTA business-interest defenders have now shown their true allegiance to the Republican Party by so passively dismissing the view that the business interests in this Town shouldn’t be getting a tax cut this year. It’s always about preserving the all-mighty dollar for those already at the top of the economic heap over the rest of us, isn’t it Republicans?

    I understand these numbers and why we are where we are today. The number I am challenging is the rate our assessors claimed residential property values rose in proportion to commercial property values.

    As I stated in a comment to an earlier post, since West Hartford has become such an attractive place to do business, I find it hard to believe that commercial valuations didn’t keep up. We keep hearing stories about how rental rates are going up and up, yet somehow the owners of these rental properties are just scraping by? Pleeeease!!

    If different mill rates can’t be applied, I think it’s time someone dug deeper into the methodology used by this Town’s assessors to calculate the values assigned to commercial properties, particularly for any properties within or near Blue Back Square—perhaps a true Democrat who is more interested in protecting the interests of the working middle-class in this Town than the Republicans are?

  49. Elmwoodian

    I’m going to repost the same thing I said at the end of the last string. To be sure, I’m no (R), but I agree w/Ose on this issue:


    …we’ve tapped our businesses for plenty already. Not that I’m generally quick to defend the interests of institutions over individuals, but I think that most owners of commercial property in town would respond, and rightly so, by saying that they have been carrying more than their fair share for 8 years now while residential property prices have risen at a disproportionately faster rate.

    Also, we can’t forget that “commercial property” doesn’t just mean big ol’ Blue Back and Westfarms. It also means Halls Market and the Quaker Diner. And there’s a lot more of the latter than the former out there. We don’t want to keep asking more and more of our businesses or we risk putting them in the same position as those that are in Hartford currently–scraping by because of onerous commercial property taxes–and discouraging new businesses from moving here.

    Let’s not be so shortsighted as to step over a dollar picking up a penny (or penny wise, pound foolish, yes?). Looking to the commercial property owners to give more is not the answer.

    The plain truth is that it’s our turn. Residential homeowners have all known (or should well have known) that they have been living on borrowed time for quite some time now. We all want to party like it’s 1999, but the fact is that it’s 2007 and the residential grand list has exploded while commercial property prices have grown at a much steadier rate. It’s time to shoulder our load already.

  50. JTS

    “Lets not bite the hand that feeds us again.”

    You have got to be kidding. The same hand that controlled the residents/puppets to do its bidding to protect it’s bottom line? The same hand that cost the town untold thousands of dollars to fight lawsuits so frivolous they were dismissed out of hand? The same hand that in order to protect their profits was only to happy to bankroll a campaign by malcontents to try and stop the single largest improvement to our town’s grand list in a generation?

    Another way to put this is that if Taubman’s toadies had been successful, the town would be looking for an additonal $4 million dollars – How much sleep is Taubman losing over the fact that the needed $4m would come out of the hides (or homes) of residents, including his loyal puppets?

    Fortunately, the town made their decision on BBS (quite clearly) and on Elmwood (sorry PSL), just to use two examples. I guess what it boils down to is that the perpertual “NO!” people will succeed only in forcing costly delays (which hurt the town and it’s taxpayers) and little else.

  51. EJ

    Eafinct – the personal property is a lovely little extra tax that business get to pay. Every year they get to inventory the contents of their offices/businesses and the town then taxes the equipment they have.

  52. Osemasterofdoom

    I think Elmwoodian put it better than I ever could. Has anyone been following what’s going on in Hartford, with commercial property reval threatening to close practically every business on Franklin Avenue? And people wonder why businesses don’t want to locate in Connecticut.

    And please don’t lump me or others on this site in with Taubman and Westfarms. Their actions in regard to Blue Back were reprehensible. Using the courts to press a business advantage goes against everything the free enterprise system stands for. In an ideal world, every West Hartford resident would boycott West Farms to give them back a taste of what they gave to this town. But if you use Taubman as a reason to punish other businesses in West Hartford, eventually you won’t have any businesses left to punish.

  53. Joe Visconti

    JTS, my good neighbor try to let it go, it’s time for you, whoever you are to appreciate the Tens of Millions of dollars the Taubmans have paid in taxes over the years to help fund schools and the infrastructure in Town, as they still do.

    As for your posted insults and untruths towards me and those who worked for years as Activists bringing true Democracy to Citizens of West Hartford, and to all of us whom have suffered our own personal and economic loss’s because of our commitment’s to the Constitution and Charter, I forgive you.
    There are some who cannot be bought my friends, I know that is difficult for many to believe in our day and age, so for anyone who cannot have faith in my words come to my home and I will open my records and books to renew your Trust in Humanity.

  54. JTS

    I didn’t intend to lump you in Ose, it just seems to me that barring one side winning this schools/services vs taxes war in a landslide, a 3rd way is going to have to be reached. First, it goes w/o saying that responsible budgeting is the foundation of it all. Next, WH needs a concentrated, focused plan on growing and sustaining our commercial grand list. The more attractive our town is as a place to run a business, the better off residents will be, if people haven’t learned that lesson after this re-eval and budget issue than we’re in deeper trouble than I thought. The problem we constantly run into is people who would rather throw rocks than figure out a way to make the town better by working together – i.e. costly and ultimately useless fights like elmwood and BBS. These fights pit neighbor against neighbor, cost the town $ and send a clear signal to any responsible person wanting to run a business or develop a commericial property in town, namely that WH is closed for business. Every time the NO crowd wins one of those fights, it’s the taxpayer that ultimately loses.

  55. Elmwoodian

    BTW, my understanding–and Chuck (or whoever), please correct me if I am wrong–is that BBS is a special district wherein those properties within it pay more than the normal mill rate. So, there is a mechanism for extra taxation of certain districts. Problem is, we’ve already tapped it.

  56. WH Homeowner

    What do you mean, Elmwoodian, that “…we’ve already tapped it.” Is the mill rate on BBS higher than the mill rate on my home next year?

    If not, then I think it’s time to tap it again.

  57. If you have questions on how to calculate your property taxes, I’ve posted an example on my blog… http://www.amybergquist.com/blog/

  58. WH return

    When will people learn. Businesses and corporations don’t pay tax. They collect it in the form of higher sale charges and pass it along. That being said, I would make extra concessions to businesses by lowering their tax burden in order to attract so additional jobs getr created putting additional dollars into the system. Boy – that almost makes sense.

    Instead the Democrats want to increase the mill rate, pay off the unions and add additional social programs. Wow, that will get those businesses to locate in your area. BBS will be the tell-tale. If it works great but it won’t be because of higher mill rates, it will be because we provide a business environment to prosper.

    Also, to the folks in the north part of town, what teachers were eliminated? What programs were eliminated? Did I miss something? As far as the PTO goes, no loss, these are frustrated parents trying to be teachers instead of letting the teachers teach. You want to raise money for the school in the form of a bake sale, great. But most of these people want to conduct the school system with their personal agenda.

  59. Quest4More

    Thanks, Amy, but now you’ve really ruined my day. Based on the formula that you’ve provided on your site, the same thing that might happen this year could happen in any or all of the next four years:

    No overall increase in property tax revenues, inevitably causing an additional diminution in the quality of education offered in this Town;

    Due to a probable across the board cut in the mill rate in each of these four years, commercial property owners will be receiving an additional tax cut in each of these four years; and

    All homeowners in West Hartford are guaranteed the privilege of helping out the “struggling Taubmen’s of the world” by funding these business tax cuts.

    Do I have that right? If so, can anyone say “second referendum?”

  60. John Hardy

    Wait a minute, now we don’t want the parents involved in the schools? Boy, I’m behind the times in the arguments here. I thought arguments were that the problem with Title I schools like Charter Oak and Smith, and in school systems like Hartford was that the parents didn’t care.

    Man, I gotta renew that Limbaugh letter subscription and watch more Hannity and Bill-O.

  61. WH return

    John,

    you missed it. No one said don’t get the parents involved or parents don’t care. In fact most parents are working behind the scenes, but how many PTO meetings have you been to? The last two I went to (and the it will be the last two) were a total waste of time.

  62. eafinct

    Well for one thing, the middle school Quest program is not replacing the retiring Quest teach at KP — instead, the remaining MS Quest teacher will have to split her time between the two middle schools (Bristow already has its own part-time Quest teacher) plus whatever time the supervisor Nancy Eastlake can contribute since her own supervisory position was cut in half. This essentially guts the Quest program as we know it — which, if I may emphasize, is NOT an honors program but a different type of special needs program, for students — some of whom are at-risk.

    But that was in the last round of cuts. We still don’t know where the Board of Ed came up with the $500,000 they are contributing to the further cuts OK’d by the town council last night. Here is the link to the agenda for tonight’s meeting. Looks to me they are going to have a special meeting on July 10 to discuss specifics:
    http://www.whps.org/board/agenda.htm

    Here is the link to the list of cuts proposed as of yesterday:
    http://www.whps.org/board/Budget%20update%20-%20June%2027.pdf
    Is this still the list they are going under?

    PS — I thank EJ for clarifying the personal property tax, which really ought to be re-named a business property tax for clarity’s sake. I have no desire to make it harder for businesses to operate in this town, as I sorely miss the little businesses that have already been squeezed out by the high rents in the Center and other locations. West Hartford Center is turning into a small-town theme park for folks in Avon and Simsbury to pretend to have a small-town experience. “It’s a Small World After All”, anybody?

  63. WH Homeowner

    …When will people learn. Businesses and corporations don’t pay tax. They collect it in the form of higher sale charges and pass it along.

    You know, this myth that is always perpetrated by Republicans whenever someone suggests that businesses should pay a fairer share of taxes has got to stop. Those of us who run businesses know that this statement is true only if the market you’re selling into will tolerate such an increase. If you’re selling into a competitive market where raising prices is going to hammer demand, these costs don’t get passed along. Instead, they’re taken from where they should be taken—owner profit!

    And even if Max’s (as one example) could pass along its fairer share of property taxes to the fat-cats dining there, I don’t have a problem with that—does anyone else?

  64. EJ

    Unfortunately you can only eat so much increased cost without passing it on otherwise you close your doors and move on.

    WH Home you claim to run a business, this should be obvious to you. Taxes go up, you pass it along, if you can’t pass it along you fire someone, if you can’t fire someone or increase profits some other way you go out of business. You can only decrease the bottom line so much, before you have to close up.

  65. Quest4More,

    That could potentially happen, as the phase-in does affect ALL real estate. However, BBS will be adding to the grand list, as will any other commercial and residential development (Quaker Green, Somerset, etc.) in that timeframe. At this point I don’t think we can assume that residential property taxes will continue to fund commercial tax cuts, in order to support future budgets.

  66. Quest4More

    Amy, I agree that the grand list will probably increase over these four years, putting less pressure on raising the mill rate, or perhaps allowing the School Board to restore what got hacked this year.

    But unless there is a revaluation of the commercial properties in this Town that re-balances the proportionate tax burden, the fact remains that a significant portion of the additional taxes I will be paying over the next four years will be benefiting the business interests in this Town, whether it’s in the form of a tax cut (like this year) or simply a lower % increase than the increase my family is guaranteed to be suffering through the next four years.

    Do the math yourself and tell me if I’m wrong. Better yet, tell me why you think that’s fair.

  67. EJ

    Fair? Fair is dependant on your perspective and only somewhat relevant to the conversation.

    Housing prices have been bid up to levels that have surpassed the value of commercial property. That is simply reality. Your homes now total more than the value of commercial property in town. We were all happy as housing prices soared and now we are stuck with the “law of unintended consequences”.

    As homeowners we now are stuck footing a larger part of the bill for everything in town. It’s a ot easier to say keep taxing for the schools when someone else is paying the taxes.

  68. WH Homeowner

    EJ, if you’re in a business that doesn’t generate enough profit to absorb a fairer share of the property taxes imposed by this Town, then you’re probably running a tired business in need of shuttering anyway.

    Put another way, I don’t see why the homeowners in this Town should be running a “welfare for the business owners who can’t turn a profit program,” do you?

  69. Elmwoodian

    WHHomeowner:

    Is the mill rate on BBS higher than the mill rate on my home next year?

    My understanding is that yes, yes it is. Again, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but BBS is considered a “special services district” or some such and any property owners within it pay a higher rate than the going mill.

  70. eafinct

    What about Mark Sinatro’s plan to lure a decent business to the old Caldor’s site on New Britain Avenue? What about getting a small hardware store or clothing store into the empty space at Bishop’s Corner where Adams used to be? This might be the time for us to look at what it takes to bring and keep small to medium size businesses to town. To reiterate one of WHdad’s old posts, what does West Hartford need? Best way to keep a business here is to find a true need that it fills.

  71. Quest,

    “Fair” is subjective based on your personal situation. I would say the gains that WH homeowners have seen over the past 4 years in their home values are more than fair.

  72. Elmwoodian

    …if you’re in a business that doesn’t generate enough profit to absorb a fairer share of the property taxes imposed by this Town, then you’re probably running a tired business in need of shuttering anyway.

    I think that that argument is far too simplistic and reflexively anti-business. I understand where it’s coming from, believe me I do, but really, that argument could just as easily be applied to residential homeowners whose property costs have outgrown their ability to pay them. One could easily say that they have known that reval was coming and should have planned better or downsized. Frankly, I don’t like that argument as it applies to either business or residents.

    Really, this whole problem is rooted in the classically flawed method of taxation that property tax is. It’s neither a tax on income nor purchases, over which the average taxpayer has some control. It is, in short, a tax on simply possessing something, and so long as you possess and control it, you owe a percentage of whatever the tax collector deems the value of that item. And, in CT it is particularly vexing, as so much is pushed off onto property taxes. Granted, we aren’t as bad as, say, NH, which collects most of its taxes (in lieu of a sales tax) through property taxes. (Man, that’s gotta hurt).

    Worse still, property tax has, as we have all seen, the tenancy to unfairly pit groups against each other–e.g., Fixed-incomers v. wage-earners, commercial v. residential, etc. We (D’s and R’s alike) had a real opportunity to enact some serious serious property tax reform/relief this legislative session and we really blew it.

    I say that we quit all this You v. Me and realize that we really are all in the same boat, getting walloped by property taxes while wanting to provide for the town and its schools as well as encourage new residents and business to move here. This is obviously an engaged group. We should refocus our energies on getting our legislators to focus the Assembly into really spreading out the burden. Because, as we all know, this is only going to get worse before it gets better.

  73. Elmwoodian

    [Sorry, that first paragraph should have been italicized, like this: …if you’re in a business that doesn’t generate enough profit to absorb a fairer share of the property taxes imposed by this Town, then you’re probably running a tired business in need of shuttering anyway.]

  74. WH return

    Elmwoodian:

    You are right on! That is why it is so important to become involved at the local level. To some degree I am in control of my income tax based on how much I want to earn. Not so with Property tax where I am at the mercy of elected officials to continuously rape us without at least saying thank you.

    To WH homeowner I am not sure what type of business you run but if you can’t see the logic behind what higher taxes to do business (eventually customers) then you need to re-read EJ’s post – it is pretty clear. I’m sorry you resorted earlier to party politics because you probably believe Clinton is a saint but what everyone forgets it was a republican congress that made Clinton what he was – one of the best economic growth presidents around.

    Comparing Max’s to other establishments is comparing apples to oranges. No one has to eat at Max’s and I bet most of their clientele (sp.) is outside of W. Hartford (don’t know for sure). I know I can’t afford Max’s.

    Anyhow, I wonder how a number of other business parties (Barber, Music Store, Deli, Bakeries, etc.) would agree with your comment about paying a fair share since all they do is pass it on until they realize margins aren’t what they use to be because no one can afford to buy anymore. I also wonder how long Max’s survives especially when some other fancy eatery become the “in vogue” place.

  75. WH Homeowner

    Well, WH Return and Elmwoodian, at least we agree on one thing–property taxes stink! Better to replace them with a progressive income tax that is applied to “taxable income” calculated by allowing families to claim the same type of deducations that the Feds allow.

  76. Good point Joe. Time to get the artililary ready for the war with the unions. Let’s hope our town managers do have some backbone. And if Barbara Carpenter begins to show conflict of interest that we make sure she’s called out on it. I would like some clarification on her connection to the teacher’s union if any, and then I’d like to understand if “conflict of interest” could or would apply in this situation.

    As for the rest of you silly homeowners…. everyone will need to make certain they get at least a 4.54% this coming year to keep up with the increase – oh wait, the increase is for this year. Shucks. Ok, I meant go back and make sure you’ve already received a 4.54% increase this year from your boss. Next year you will need about the same, so make sure you put in your request as soon as possible – because corporations aren’t giving away 5% raises like candy any more? Or are they?

    This is only for those who work and earn a salary, the Mansionites can just cash in a stock or two to cover it for the next few years. No problem for those folks.

    The schools, the schools: YADDA YADDA and the PTO can blow smoke. AS IF, this budget would really impact the schools. What, are the teachers going to suddenly stop teaching? Are they going to get cranky and start taking it out on the kids? Isn’t that what school is all about… teaching? Let’s get off the nonsensical school theme – hurting children crap. Let’s at least be reasonable with our arguments. If they want to leave West Hartford Schools, there are a billion new teachers who are willing to die to take job in the WH School System. Just ask one.

  77. EJ

    Whether you have a property tax system or income tax system doesn’t really matter. I say this because if you have a govt that wants to spend w/out control and have no transparency to their budget you are going to have problems no matter what system you use.

    The State has an income tax and we have a legislature that is out of control with spending. Remember they wanted to raise taxes while runnning a Billion $ surplus and that was after a previous year with a billion $ surplus.

    The problem is we have Federal, State and local govts with absolutely no respect for the taxpayers, and are only concerned with how much of our disposable income they can grab and waste. The worst part is this is all with out accountability!

  78. Gary Reger

    Fair warning: what follows is long and treats a number of topics recently raised.

    1. Business and taxes. The discussion about how businesses “don’t pay taxes” but just pass them along is largely beside the point. The burr is that businesses’ share of the tax burden has gone down. Why did the Town cut businesses’ taxes rather than adjusting the mill rate so that they would have continued to pay the same dollar amount?

    2. Businesses, taxes, and the pass on. As WH Homeowner wrote, it is a myth that businesses simply pass on taxes in higher prices. Prices are set in a market, not by arbitrary decree of business owners. Faced with the rise in one cost of doing business — be that taxes, rent, supplies, labor, utilities — businesses have both options and constraints to respond. The demand curve for a given product limits the amount the price can be raised without sales dropping to the point that absolute income is reduced. So the response must often include a mix of economies in other areas — cheaper suppliers, capital investment to improve efficiencies, accepting a lessened rate of return on invetsment (profit). Homeowners faced with tax increases have many of the same options and constraints. So it’s not as simple as the myth makes out.

    3. Homeowners need a 5% raise to keep up with taxes. There’s a math muddle here. Take a notional example: a household with one income earner making $60,000/year living in a house whose tax burden last year was $5000 (value of house before revaluation = about $107,000, mill rate 46.19). The increase in taxes resulting from the revaluation means this household will owe next year $5227 (increase of 4.54%). To cover that cost, household income will have to rise by 0.38%. Unless the homeowner is working for a company with a wage freeze, it seems likely to me that s/he will get a raise that more than covers this increase. (The 2006 inflation rate was 2.57%.)

    4. The notion that the government only wants to grab and waste taxpayers’ money. This is overheated rhetoric which contributes little to sensible public policy debate. We get in fact a lot of awfully good value for our taxes. That doesn’t mean money can’t be saved, or that every decision the Town makes is right. But if we are going to be a genuine community that serves its residents we must recognize that taxes pay for things we cannot do for ourselves, or that would be outrageously expensive to do for ourselves. (Imagine if everyone had to hire their own private security forces because we had no police? Or if everyone had to equip their own house with a chemistry lab because there were no public schools?) Taxes are part of the price we pay to live in a civilized society.

    5. Progressive taxation. I agree that property taxes are in principle a poor way to collect taxes. Progressive taxes would be far better. But for now — since the Legislature ducked reform — we are stuck with the system. So I ask: are there any ways, within the limitations we face, to add progressiveness to what we have? Could we:

    a. Establish a sliding-scale mill rate based on assessed value, such that properties worth under $100,000 paid a low rate, properties assessed at 100-200,000 a higher rate, and so on, adjusted as necessary to generate the same revenue?

    b. Pass a Town progressive income tax and then offset the money generated by that by drastically lowering the mill rate?

    6. More businesses. Surely there must be ways to lure businesses into WH without giving tax breaks. Blue Back Square is paying taxes, and as several folks have pointed out, we have seen many new businesses open. Those blighted areas like the former Caldor (that whole horrible strip of New Britain Avenue) cry out for some creative thinking. Here’s a thought or two: How about a live music venue, like Toad’s in New Haven or Pearl Street in Northampton? How about a bowling alley? What about a concerted effort to identify some businesses of the future and market WH to them — solar system manufacture, for instance?

    Okay, enough for one post!

  79. Rick Liftig

    Folks – here’s a little clarity – the taxes on businesses went down because the business property did not appreciate as fast as the residential property.

    Example: Say in 2001 an office on Princeton Street was assessed at $150,000 and a house on Princeton Street was assessed for the same price. In 2007, the house may be assessed at $220,000 while the office is only assessed at $190,000.

    It’s a matter of assessments, not lower taxes. Business property has not appreciated in value as fast as residential property. Business assessments are very odd because rarely are there comparables (like with residential housing) and business properties turn over at a much lower rate. OTOH, you can compare the selling price of a 1946 cape on Somerset st. to a 1952 cape on Federal St. very easily. But, comparing a six bay gas station with a dental office is a much harder nut, even if both buildings have 2,000 square feet and the same amount of parking.

    Also, because there are fewer (or less valuable) businesses in West Hartford than there were in 2001, their contribution to the Grand List has dropped.

    Businesses are taxed on multiple factors besides the building. Businesses are also taxed on equipment, furniture, vehicles and inventory. The old machine shops and factories of the 1950’s paid very high taxes in this town because of their fixed equipment. Today’s businesses are adept at keeping inventories and equipment low (in West Hartford) and often keep the vast majority of their equipment and inventory elsewhere (where teh taxes are lower).

    Let me use Best Buy as an example here. Even though I can’t give you the particulars, the store has a minimal buildout (ie. it is truly just a big box with roof, floor, hanging lights, ductwork and flimsy walls). The majority of the store’s equipment is kept in a warehouse elsewhere where the taxes are lower. The town can only tax the inventory on hand through the year and the meager equipment located in the building.

    Today’s retail store may look like it is a big contributer to the tax base, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the factories of old. Plus, large companies are very adept at playing the tax game.

    Also, another clarification: When someone says, ‘they’ should put in a (let’s say, nightclub) at the old Caldor’s site, that’s not how business works. If a site is zoned for commercial business, any business that fits the criteria can locate there. They can also apply for a variance or special development district if they do not fit the zoning profile. But simply, if no one is interested in running a nightclub, it doesn’t get done. The town can (and does) talk to the owner to try to promote the properties, but in the case of Caldor’s, the owner is not local (I believe it is a New York based company) and is most likely using the building as a loss to offset gains elsewhere. The town doesn’t own the property; all the town can do is monkey with the property’s taxes in order to provide an incentive. And that is a whole other thread that I don’t even want to get into!

    Some towns do tax the businesses at a different rate. In fact in Hartford, they are using that technique to maintain the downtown and Park Street. The businesses in those zones have agreed to pay an extra mill on their taxes to support cleaning, beautification and infra-structure improvements in their neighborhood. AND in Hartford’s case, the opposite (to our situation) happened. That is, business property appreciated at a faster rate than residential property. Now the businesses in Hartford are raising holy hell about that.

    Hope this helps.

  80. Rick Liftig

    PS – If anyone reading this is interested in placing a business in the old Caldor site, it would be a pleasure to help make the connections for you.

  81. David Jones

    Rick, thanks for the information.

    On an entirely different subject I wanted to let the readers of this blog know that former town council member David Lemkuil’s wife Susan had surgery today and is doing well. I spoke to David a few minutes ago as he was on his way home from a long day at the hospital.

    In February it was discovered that she had a brain tumor and she had surgery at that time. She had additional brain surgery today at Yale-New Haven. The surgeon was very optimistic. Susan is expected to return home on Sunday or Monday.

    I ask that everyone keep Susan and David and their family in your prayers.

  82. Joe Visconti

    Will do David.

  83. WH return

    To all posters – terrific. There have been some great posts with excellent ideas and useful information. It is nice to see some type of consistency (good business operations promote good opportunities) with ideas to think outside the box.

    It is also nice to see a common theme that no one asked for major cuts but an argument to be accountable for spending money. We all agree it takes money to provide services but it looks like like the majority want to know why we are spending money and what value are we getting for our dollar spent. For too long government at all levels just spend without thinking in order to buy votes and when they are asked for an explanation – all hell breaks lose.

    To Mr. Reger your last post was excellent but I offer one argument to think about. I agree with your math but that also assumes all other household expenses have not gone up. I think we can agree the cost of oil, gas, food, etc continues to climb. Its easier to make adjustments to some of these items but taxes (property, income, sales, etc.) are more difficult to reign in until a few individuals start a dialogue. Kudo’s to the WHTA for at least bringing the citizens of WH to the table.

  84. Gary Reger

    Thank you to Rick for information that helps me understand about Caldor. I had actually been wondering the same about the old Adams store at Bishops Corner, vacant now for years — whether the owner was using his losses as a tax write-off, and that’s why nothing has gone in there.

    To WH return: you are quite right that other expenses go up, too. I just wanted to point out that an increase in taxes of 4.54% does not mean income must go up by the same amount to break even. If I had to guess, I’d imagine petroleum-based fuel costs present a far greater challenge to many families than an increase of a few hundred dollars a year in property taxes will. (Please call me Gary.)

  85. TWC

    While I understand why we ended up here and can respect both sides of this debate, you have to admit that it’s a sad irony that commercial property landlords who don’t even live in our Town will be the biggest beneficiaries over the next five years, since unlike many small business owners or local landlords, they won’t be sharing in the burden of having their residential property taxes rise, nor will they be burdened by the prospect of having the quality of their kids’ education decline.

    Does anyone know if West Farms’ latest valuation was inflated at as high a rate as the average home in West Hartford?

    If not, then I would have to agree with those who suggest we should revisit how such properties were valued, to at least assure our residential taxpayers that this valuation was fairly determined. Since the value placed on a shopping mall is so subjective, why would it be unreasonable to demand that the Town’s assessor’s demonstrate that the Taubmans–and any similarly situated absentee landlords–are in fact paying their fair share of property taxes to this Town?

    It’s my view that we shouldn’t be any less demanding of competent performance on this key point than any other service provided by our public officials.

  86. Osemasterofdoom

    All:

    Added kudos to the last few posters — your comments have contributed to a fascinating and I think productive dialogue. Let me apologize in advance for the length of this post.

    Just a few comments, particularly in regard to Gary Reger’s insightful post. First, I think Rick Liftig makes a good point in observing that the supposed “cut” in business taxes is really a case of business property not appreciating in value as much as residential property. It is not a reduction as much as it is a smaller increase.

    Second, I am glad to see your comments on the positive value of taxes. I don’t think we as citizens really appreciate the bang we get for our buck. Having said that, though, while I agree that legislators don’t necessarily seek to waste taxpayer money, I do believe many in our government do not appreciate the ramifications of how money spent today can cost more money tomorrow. Just like we as individuals seek ways to justify our existence, the institutions we create take on the same quality.

    Look, for example, at our Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. I am sure they do good work, but is there really anything done there that could not be accomplished within another agency or through volunteer work? But, because was created (I am sure with the best of intentions) it stays in place through sheer inertia. Anyone who suggests doing away with it (as I believe Governor Rowland did) is immediately labeled “anti-woman” and, eventually, the person gives up because the battle is just not worth it. Now you not only have this agency present in perpetuity, you now have other interest groups saying “hey, our issues are just as important as those of women… where’s our Permanent Commission?” It’s this lack of forethought that just drives some of us crazy.

    On the subject of progressive taxation, please be careful. While those of us who oppose this are often labeled “anti-poor” or “pro-rich” the fact is that when you tax high earners at a higher rate than you do lower earners, you are essentially penalizing people for success. Nobody would argue that the wealthy don’t need to pay their fair share, but when you start targeting people “because they can afford it” you start driving people away from our town and state.

    What is needed more than a progressive tax is a tax policy that targets and encourages the behaviors we want to see in our citizens. Look at the home mortgage interest deduction. It is in society’s interest for people to invest in and feel a sense of ownership in their homes, therefore our tax code rewards people for home purchases. Actually, the legislature had a chance to do something during this past session, with the proposal to create a state version of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is probably the most effective anti-poverty tool of the past 50 years because it rewards people for work. But, like so many other things this session, it went nowhere

  87. Joe, Just caught up with all these comments.
    Want to out me, eh? Well, have fun. I don’t really care.

  88. Rick Liftig

    I guess one other point about business taxes needs to be raised here. There is no delineation between a business’ property taxes and the taxes on the business itself.

    If you as a homeowner were taxed as a business, your property (and dwelling) would count towards one portion of your assessment. Your equipment and supplies (ie. tv, computer, furniture, lamps, pencils, groceries) would be another part of the assessment.

    In my particular instance, I don’t own the building that my office is in and that is taxed to its owner (who in turn passes it along to me!). However, I pay taxes on the dental chairs, the computers, the supplies, etc. that are used as a part of my business.

    So I guess you could say that businesses actually pay a higher tax than a residence because more aspects of the business are taxed.

  89. Rick Liftig

    Also, concerning empty stores – it’s an old trick to keep the competition away.

    If you are a grocery chain and you want to keep your hold on the neighborhood, one way to achieve this is to control the properties in the vicinity of your store. You can then effectively block the competition by entirely legal means.

    Royal Ahold (parent co. of Stop and Shop) is a master of the technique. A manager told me once that the companies profits from real estate management dwarfed the food business and that the food business provided cash, the property side, investment.

    Too much for my meager small business mind to handle.

  90. WH return

    May I suggest everyone take a look at the Fair Tax Bill sponsored by Congressman John Linder of Georgia. http://www.fairtax.org

    While this doesn’t do anything to address property tax, it is a great example of thinking outside the box and eliminating the IRS.

  91. WH Homeowner

    That’s right, WH return, let’s replace a sort-of progressive tax with a regressive one by throwing a bone to the poor so the wealthy can continue to avoid paying their fair share of taxes by sticking it to the middle class. And if we promise to do away with everyone’s favorite buggie-man, perhaps the middle-class will be stupid enough to buy into it.

    Fair tax? Who gave this initiative that name? Karl Rove?

  92. WH return

    WH Homeowner: Let me know when you read the proposal, because your comments suggest you have not even looked at it.

    The IRS is the biggest hurdle to economic growth. Remove it and base taxes on consumption and those who cant afford things will therefore pay only on the things they consume. They will pay zero, repeat zero income and payroll tax. They will even get a monthly rebate but I won’t bother to explain.

    Yes, the “evil rich” will get to buy there 6 yachts, but guess what they will pay a higher sales tax of approximately 23% which is going to pump more money into the system then the 6 yugos the peon can buy.

    Its based on consumption. You wipe out the IRS and you will wipe out the black market which is estimated in the hundred of billions and by the way, the middle class can save hours of work each year trying to figure out what they owe to the IRS – another waste of productivity.

  93. Osemasterofdoom

    Interesting reading, WH return, but I am assuming you realize that it has zero chance of getting enacted. There are simply too many interest groups who have a vital stake in deductions and credits in the present tax system to allow something this radical to pass. Employers would go nuts because it takes away the deduction for employee health insurance costs. Realtors and homeowners would oppose it because of the loss of the home mortgage interest deduction, and so on (not to mention the tens of thousands accountants and tax attorneys put out of work ;-)).

    The only thing that would allow something this radical to get passed would be a worldwide economic catastrophy the scale of the Great Depression, during which citizens are open to extreme solutions to remedy extreme circumstances. I don’t think anyone is hoping for that.

  94. WH Homeowner

    …The IRS is the biggest hurdle to economic growth…”

    WH Return, I assume you meant the Internal Revenue Code(/i>–which is passed by Congress, signed by the President, and is only administered by the IRS–is the “biggest hurdle to economic growth.” The IRS (or some successor public entity) will always be required to administer whatever type of tax this country imposes at the Federal level. So once again, you need to stop using the IRS buggie man to sell the “Fair” Tax Plan.

    As to a more politically palatable alternative to the current scheme, I find the plans that have been advocated by some that eliminate all (or most) personal deductions and tax credits in exchange for a significant drop in the marginal tax rates to be more attractive. As long as a fair amount of progressivism is preserved in the new reduced rates, I think this approach has a better chance of being considered.

    Unfortunately, as Osemasterofdoom put it, “…there are simply too many interest groups who have a vital stake in deductions and credits in the present tax system…” to even get a less radical approach like this one passed by Congress.

    Too bad, because I do agree with you WH Return that at the point taxpayers are as focused on saving (or cheating on) taxes as they are on generating more income, the economic potential of this country is significantly less than what it could be.

  95. WH return

    Never said it was easy. However, I will tell you that initially this bill had very few co sponsors (something like 10). Today, there are over 75 sponsors (congressmen) committed to the bill. Being in the Financial business, it is only a matter of time for Government intervention of health care and then we will see a real disaster, so companies will have their balance sheets sanitized. In regards to the CPA’s, most CPA firms today see smaller profit margins in tax accounting. They will still be needed for corporate accounting, financial services, audit, etc.

    Don’t be surprised if you see the deduction for residence eliminated, it has been mentioned in the past.

    Anyhow, until this monster of a tax system is eliminated (change is not even worthwhile), the country will be subjected to special interest groups, fraud, and a system that no two people can give you the same answer for.

    Thanks for the comments

  96. WH return

    Last time I checked the IRS (yes, the keeper of the Internal Revenue Code) was a division of the Treasury Department. The IRS would be eliminated (henceforth the code) and yes they are a dinosaur that stymies growth due to a process that most individuals and professionals don’t understand anymore. How many lawyers are paid by corporations to keep them abreast of rules and regulations contained in the “Code”.

    No doubt the special interest groups obfuscate the Code but they would be eliminated with the Fair Tax platform.

    We can argue all day long, but the IRS VIA the IRC is a drag on the economy and misses a fair amount of dollars owed due to not understanding a system that is now what 10,000 pages. You want a huge lift to the growth of this country, eliminate the IRS and watch what happens.

  97. Joe Visconti

    Give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s & Give unto Humanity what is Humanity’s!

  98. LPBaxter

    I understand from a brief conversation with Ms. McGrath earlier in June that her son was about to graduate from Hall High. I am curious whether her decision to leave West Hartford is being informed in any way by the fact, assuming that she has no other children in the school system. Surely, there is more to the story, especially considering that WH has a diversity of housing options that span the price market. In my opinion, anyone with a middle-class income can afford to live here–perhaps not in the most “desired” neighborhood or in the most fashionable of homes, but I have been around town long enough to know that WH is not as exclusive as we pretend it to be, with or without high property taxes.

  99. WH Homeowner

    LBBaxter touches on a question I’ve had for sometime relating to this year’s budget fight.

    If you’re retired and living on a fixed income, but are fortunate enough to have enjoyed a significant increase in the value of your home, why not cash in your chips, bank your $300,000-500,000 gain, and retire to someplace warmer and more tax-friendly?

    I can guarantee you that the day after my last child graduates from Conard my house is on the market, hopefully to be left in the hands of a new family that can continue the nobel fight for better education against those who refuse to just move on.

  100. Joe Visconti

    WH Homeowner
    “nobel fight for better education”! What a great quote from the Educational Cartel ‘s propoganda machine.

    You got your kids educated at others expense and don’t want to anty up for another 20 years for the new kiddies in town, how nobel; No wonder you don’t use your real name.

  101. EJ

    Joe, your right he’s got a great philosophy.
    Elderly, forget your family and support structure and get of town, so that someone else can get their kids in school for 4-12 years do their damage to the budget and move on.

  102. Osemasterofdoom

    Only on this blog could educating our kids be equated with doing damage to our town.

  103. Joe Visconti

    Educating our kids Mr Master of Doom is the law, paying for that law without complete participation from our lawmakers giving us all our money back to do it is a crime. This is a rainy day Jodi/Aman!

    It’s time for Municipalities such as West Hartford to sue the State of CT (Class Action style) and ask the Education Cartel leaders like Barbara Carpenter to join us, otherwise her Union can see us in Court over the illegal Racketeering law of Binding Arbitration come Contract time.

    Connecticut will become a “Right to Work State” again, and saying it long and loud enough will make it so!

  104. Osemasterofdoom

    Joe, I think I’ve made it clear that I agree with you on binding arb. I just don’t use as many adjectives in saying so.

    What I don’t agree with is this characterization of parents with school age children as parasites on the body of West Hartford. We pay taxes just the same as anyone else in this town does. Do we get a lot of bang for our buck with our taxes? You bet we do. But just because there is one parent who says he’s going to skip out of Dodge once his kids graduate doesn’t make him the spokesman for all of us. Am I going to continue to live here after my kids graduate? Who the hell knows? But whatever I do, I’ll know that I have paid my fair share.

  105. Joe Visconti

    good point doom

  106. Joe Visconti

    Oh Doom

    I have 2 kids in West Hartford School System but still believe the Educators have been playing dead for years while greater and greater bureaucracy has given them the $$$ they want.
    If the Educators will not side with the taxpayers to control spending, bureacracy and such, because of the Union Bosses over them, then they can go to Hartford (Educational Hell)!

  107. WH Homeowner

    For those of you sitting on a significant gain that don’t want to “…forget your family and support structure and get of town…” how about taking out a reverse mortgage?

    This financial vehicle would allow you to continue to live in West Hartford without the stress associated with your misguided efforts to diminish the quality of education our kids receive in this Town.

  108. Quest4More

    For those of you sitting on a significant gain that don’t want to “…forget your family and support structure and get of town…” how about taking out a reverse mortgage?

    This financial vehicle would allow you to continue to live in West Hartford without the stress associated with your working overtime to diminish the quality of education our kids receive in this Town.

  109. LPBaxter:

    I wouldn’t doubt that the timing of her son’s graduation plays a role. It’s tough to yank kids out in their jr or sr year of high school and ask them to start over somewhere else. But that’s just an assumption on my part. But I think there’s another reason to look outside of WH.

    Most folks (myself included) get into our first houses based on what we can afford. If Doctor Who technology were real, I’d go back in time and convinced “young King” to purchase a house twice the size – and convinced myself that salaries grow and not fear stretching a bit more on the mortgage payment. That would have removed my current debacle – looking for an “upgrade” to suit my growing family needs.

    I just think most people who are in my situation, have little alternative but to look outside of West Hartford. For all its charm and convenience, its not worth being house-poor to live here (and believe me there are plenty of people in that situation in town). It’s great for cashing in, but between property taxes never ending and reduction in services, and the fact that you can buy a Mountain Road style home (with actual land to mow) for so much less in other towns that are “on the rise” that its pretty much a no brainer.

    Of course there is a trade off. But a mortgage payment at 500K in West Hartford takes longer to pay off than a mortgage payment at 390K. So there you have it. As most growing families see it, you have a simple choice – suck it up and be unhappy in your smaller home, or buy elsewhere and live in a home that meets your space needs.

    Pretty simple.

  110. Cha Ching

    King

    Nothing is permanent, we don’t really own anything, it’s all just a big Time Share scheme!

  111. Joe Visconti

    Cha Ching

    I like that, you must be reading my mind…. hint hint!!!!

  112. Osemasterofdoom

    King:

    Obviously, I don’t know how large your family is, but if your biggest “problem” is is that you can’t afford a half-million dollar house, then you are blessed indeed.

  113. Joe Visconti

    A Kinh needs his Castle dommaster, with a moat to keep out the Education Cartel!

  114. Joe Visconti

    A King, not a Kinh……….

  115. LOL. LOL. No, Ican’t afford a half a million dollar house. I think you missed the point. But space wise for a decent four bedroom home in West Hartford you are looking anywhere from $450-500K to start (meaning without having to put on a new roof, update to death, renovate, etc – that’s the going price – see Realtor.com).

    My point is that you can buy the same four bedroom home in other towns for considerably less plus pay much lower taxes. While the market dictates the housing prices – not something controllable – the taxes are dictated by the Council. So there you have it.

    So to underline my point without finding myself accused of being a millionaire (LOL)… for those of us in small home wishing to upgrade to a slightly larger home – West Hartford looks to be a stretch.

  116. And Cha-Ching you are very right! It is nothing more than a time share scheme. And if you don’t pay they [the Bank or MC] just come and take it from you.

    There is a theory that some use (I’m not an expert on this by any means), but they take the time-share/credit theory to the extreme. They buy what they want and just pay the minimum. They buy huge houses and focus on paying just the monthly payment. Everything else is on credit.

    Seems like more stress to me to operate like that, but if you are materialistic and hell bent on looking better than the Joneses, then I guess it works for ya.

  117. Joe Visconti

    Last thought, ok maybe not…… Again we must not trust any appraisals from the last reval. The “Great Lie” was that business shifted the tax burden to homeowners. In TRUTH, again I say in TRUTH, it DID NOT. The True value of all real estate and how the proportional shifts may occur in this town can only be fairly done on the ground. Pay for a certified appriasel on your home (Don’t pay more than $250.00) and call me to help organize a movement/revolution against “Taxation without True Estimation”.

    Remember if your not “THERE” your not in control, your babysitter is making out with her boyfriend instead of watching your house and kids. We must stop sending in theorist’s to determine our home value’s. In “Theory” your taxes are what they are, in “Theory” Education is affordable, in “Theory” this posting will have an effect on the brainwashed, hypnotized Zombie Democrats.

    Next:
    Most of the Data, Studies and Policies which are lobbyed for regarding Social Engineering, Mismanaged Health Care and The Education Rackets are gathered and determined by products of the system’s themselves. Self fullfilling prophecy’s are established through these talking heads until we can’t afford their Bullspit anymore. That’s when their proverbial,” the Market is making a correction” or “because of unknown reason’s that we can’t all agree on for global warming” we will need to do a group hug to keep ourselves employed. All the while the “have’s” who traded their bongs from the 60’s and 70’s (if they did) for their Master’s in Education and Financial Mismanagement are buying Organic at Whole Foods to water down the brain pollution they let in when they thought the “Man” was bad and they had to tear down the system. Turns out they are the “Man” on a Magical Mystery Tour with our Tax dollars and we need to Outsource their damn job’s, dismantle their postitions, give them a new title called ” UNEMPLOYED” and wire them some money to stay in Strawberry Fields… Forever!!!!!!!!!!!

  118. John

    Who can’t control their budget? I can’t send kids to private school and pay taxes. Lets be real!

  119. SK

    How much money does the prez of the taxpayers association spend on private school? I can’t afford both WH taxes and private school. Make a choice and leave town if you can’t afford both. Also, what kind of car does she drive? I drive older model cars and pay them off within a year.

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