HARTFORD, CT — Even before the dispute between the governor and Democratic lawmakers on bonding is resolved, Connecticut’s largest municipal lobby is reporting that property taxes are increasing in 79 communities across the state.
Property tax hikes took place in 79 municipalities across the state; 59 of those 79 towns had tax hikes greater than the latest 1.6 percent inflation rate reported for Connecticut.
Thirty towns were able to sustain the same mill rate and 13 towns were able to slightly reduce their mill rate, according to a report by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
“The need for adequate state aid to achieve significant property tax relief — along with other diversified local revenue sources and greater authority to contain local costs — is undeniable,” said Joe DeLong, CCM’s Executive Director and CEO. “Nearly 100 towns and cities were forced to increase their property tax rates because of cuts in some state aid programs, and in spite of sustained state aid in other areas for local governments.”
DeLong said even though “enhanced” state aid has helped some high-tax communities hold the line on property taxes, “some communities still have extraordinarily high property tax rates. Relying on the property tax to continue to fund local government is unsustainable.”
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said municipalities should be grateful that a proposal that would have required them to contribute money to the teacher’s retirement fund was defeated.
“The towns should be grateful,” Looney said. “Their decisions to prioritize spending at the municipal level are reflected in their mill rates.”
Looney said they even phased in changed to the Education Cost Sharing grant over 10 years, instead of the five years recommended by the governor’s budget.
Lawmakers and the governor tried to hold the line this year on the amount of money the state gives to municipalities, but the state Bond Commission chaired by Gov. Ned Lamont has not released about $90 million in funds for municipal roads and local improvement projects.
It’s the second time in three years that the state has failed to release the road money in time for cities and towns to get roads paved in the summer. Without the approval of this money, municipalities are forced to use their own funds on these projects, if they have it, or wait another year.
Max Reiss, the Lamont administration’s Communications Director, didn’t rule out another Bond Commission meeting before the end of the year.
There are three more meetings on the schedule in September, October, and December that have not been canceled.
However, even if all three were canceled, “the Bond Commission can still authorize past allocations that have not been canceled, so the state can continue with some prior authorizations without a new bond package,” Reiss said.
Lamont has only held two Bond Commission meetings since taking office in January and the legislature has failed to say how much it plans to borrow next year.
The two sides within the same political party have been at odds all summer about how much to borrow, and how much of that borrowing should be dedicated to transportation.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Melissa McCaw has said the governor would agree to increase his self-imposed borrowing limit from $1 billion to $1.3 billion. But before he does that he would like a firm commitment from lawmakers that $100 million a year of that general obligation bonding will be used for transportation infrastructure.
Democratic lawmakers have not been willing to agree to cut other local capital improvement projects to make room for more transportation borrowing.
They argue it doesn’t really matter much anyway what they agree to since Lamont is in charge of the Bond Commission agenda and in charge of where the money ultimately goes.
Lamont is using the bond authorizations as a way to win support for increased transportation spending.
Lamont was unable to convince the General Assembly to approve his proposal to toll four Connecticut highways to increase the amount of money going toward improving Connecticut’s infrastructure, and a special session to deal with the 2020 bond package has yet to materialize.
This story has been updated to reflect updated data from CCM.