The property tax is one of the least sexy topics in politics. But the state’s largest municipal lobby is hoping to use this election cycle to get the conversation started.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents 155 cities and towns, issued a candidate bulletin Tuesday that shows that property taxes account for 37 percent of all state and local tax revenues.
“That’s more than the income tax, more than the sales tax, more than any corporate taxes,” Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for CCM, said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference.
It’s a tax “you have to pay regardless of your income and regardless of whether your business is turning a profit,” Maloney added.
But fixing Connecticut’s tax structure is never easy.
Earlier this year, a debate on which properties should be exempt from paying local taxes fizzled when Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate couldn’t agree to pass each other’s pet legislative initiatives. The year before that municipal officials were upset about a proposal to phase out the property tax on motor vehicles.
Maloney said it would be great if the state, which is facing a more than $1.278 billion budget deficit, was able to find additional money to boost PILOT payments. PILOT is an acronym for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, a grant the state uses to reimburse towns housing non-taxable property or institutions. The payments represent a fraction of what towns would otherwise levy for taxes on the properties, which puts some municipalities in a bind.
Maloney said it would also be great if the state could advance its Education Cost Sharing formula, which is the largest grant to many cities and towns. However, that may be a matter for the courts to decide. In January, the state’s ECS formula will be scrutinized in a lawsuit regarding education adequacy and the state’s constitutional duty to fund it.
“We constantly have to make our case,” Maloney said. “Often, legislators will take the last thing they heard, or the easiest way for them to proceed and we have to make sure they see the importance of this issue.”
The candidate bulletin pointed out that Connecticut is more property tax dependent than almost any other state.
“The per capita property tax burden in Connecticut is $2,522, an amount that is almost twice the national average of $1,434 — and 3rd highest in the nation,” the pamphlet states.
The property tax, according to CCM, also accounts for 71 percent of all municipal revenue statewide and 19 towns depend on property taxes for at least 90 percent of all their revenue. Another 51 municipalities rely on property taxes for at least 80 percent of their revenue.