HARTFORD, CT — Elected officials and residents from three communities— Bridgeport, Hamden, and Torrington—gathered Wednesday at the state Capitol to call on lawmakers to fund the rest of their 2018 supplemental car tax payments.
The bipartisan budget passed last year capped car taxes at 39 mills. Any community with a mill rate above that was supposed to receive the difference from the state’s new municipal sharing account. That didn’t happen for these three communities.
For months after the budget was passed, the Office of Policy and Management refused to release half of the $10 million owed to the towns. Earlier this month, they changed their mind and released $5 million, but lawmakers will still need to find an additional $5 million.
“This is not a lot of money,” Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, said.
Bridgeport, Hamden and Torrington each underwent property tax revaluations in 2015 or later, and each municipality saw tax rate increases of more than 4 mills. With each community having tax rates above 39 mills, the municipalities needed the reimbursement from the state to be made whole.
“We’re not asking for more money this time,” Hamden Mayo Curt Leng said. “We’re just asking for our fair share.”
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said these three towns followed the rules and did their revaluations “and got left behind.”
Ganim said it’s blowing a hole in budgets because it impacts the available money for other services like education and public safety.
“We’re just asking for fairness and equity,” Ganim said. “It’s not fair for any city or town to not be treated the same as others.”
Christine Crowder, a Hamden resident, said the state created this system and they are just asking them to play by the rules they created.
“The towns that have the highest needs are the ones that have been punished the most,” Crowder said. “This was just a technical error.”
She said the reason the car tax rates in these communities are so high is because they have the greatest need.
Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington, said the lack of the funding hurts a towns ability to hire police officers and pay for education.
“We have to work with them and make sure what they were promised is what we can turn around and give them,” Cook said.
If legislators do nothing to adjust the 2019 budget, then the mill rate for the program jumps to 45 mills and reduces the number of towns with mill rates above that level.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said he’s aware of the problem and that’s why the money was restored as part of the Democratic spending plan that passed the Appropriations Committee last week.
The Office of Policy and Management said the Municipal Transition Grant has been exhausted and has no more money.
It’s unclear where the additional $5 million would come from.
D’Agostino said the legislature would need to appropriate it.