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Dear Town Council,
Ahead of the budget hearings, I wanted to present a concern that is not getting enough attention from the residents. I feel that this is because on the surface, the new budget and mill rate look fine. However, there is a big issue of the tax burden shift from commercial properties and high-wealth households onto the town’s middle class and lower income homeowners.
I don’t have complete data on prior year’s assessment roll, but I have reviewed the new assessment information for various single family homes in different neighborhoods in town and noticed that on average the assessed value went up by about 20%. However, the total Grand List for the town only went up by 12% and thus the decrease in the mill rate of 6% for 2022 and increase in the budget of 3% actually implies that the town’s homeowners are being hit with MASSIVE property tax increases.
What makes matters even worse, the homes on the lower end of value, owned by lower income families, are actually being hit by a larger tax % increase than the mansions in town. I have looked at some of the largest and highest valued homes, and noticed that their assessment only went up by 5% to 10%, implying that while lower income homeowners are being hit with an average of 13% tax increase, some wealthy mansion owners are actually getting a tax DECREASE and others are seeing only marginal tax increase. This leaves the town’s relatively lower wealth households to shoulder more of the tax burden, with a single year tax increase that is higher than the previous 5 years combined.
On top of the wealthy homeowners, properties such as Blue Back and Westfarms and other large commercial properties are getting large tax breaks as well.
With historic inflation causing prices of basic household necessities (and everything else) to increase dramatically and many lower income families still not recovered financially from impacts of Covid, I find this massive tax burden shift from the town’s commercial property owners and wealthier large homeowners onto lower income homeowners incredibly disturbing. What’s also disturbing is the town manager’s statement that changes in property values were not the same throughout all parts of town, making it difficult to determine what the average impact on the homeowner would be. I am not going to accuse the town manager of intentionally misleading the residents, as I believe he was simply stating facts. However, given what I outlined in this email, that statement becomes a cover up for the large tax burden shift, even if not intended to be so.
With income and wealth inequality as bad as it already is, it’s concerning that this isn’t getting enough attention. I am hoping that you take a serious look at what is happening here and at least begin a discussion of what can be done to rectify the issue.
Editor’s Note: The text of this letter has also been submitted directly to members of the West Hartford Town Council.