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West Hartford Grand List Has Large Increase

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford’s 2016 Grand List, which reflects the value of real property, business personal property, and motor vehicles, increased 4.33 percent over the previous year.

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Town Hall. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The 2016 Grand List submitted to Town Manager Ron Van Winkle on Tuesday by Director of Assessments Joseph Dakers shows significant increase in taxable property, a level of growth much greater than it has in recent years.

According to Dakers, the total value of West Hartford’s 2016 Grand List is now $6,240,412,461. The total increase is $259,064,672, or 4.33 percent above last year’s list.

The submitted Grand List does not reflect any revisions which may be made by the Board of Assessment Appeals.

“We’re in pretty good shape this year,” Dakers said regarding the Grand List.

“That’s a positive thing for us. I applaud that and it will help us,” Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said of the impact of Grand List growth on the next fiscal year’s budget. However, he added, “This is a more-than-interesting and difficult year.”

The large increase is attributable to several factors, Dakers said, including that this is a revaluation year. New construction as well as remodeling also played a large role.

New construction accounts for approximately three-quarters of a percent of the overall real property increase. “The Delamar Hotel, apartments, and new condos and retail – that’s where the lion’s share has come from,” Dakers said.

Construction had started on the Delamar Hotel in 2015, but only its foundation and the land was included in that year’s Grand List. According to Dakers, $13.2 million of assessed value for the Delamar is included in the 2016 Grand List, as compared to $2.1 million in 2015.

The hotel will be completed in 2017, with its full value of approximately $30 million impacting the 2017 Grand List.

Dakers also cited new construction at Chatfield, new apartment buildings on Steele Road as well as Albany Avenue, the SARD Custom Homes subdivision on East Maxwell Drive, Kingswood Place condominiums, Cumberland Farms on New Park Avenue, and the Landmark mixed-use building at 11 South Main St. as major contributors.

The overall value of commercial property increased 24 percent. “Apartments rose 35 percent as a category by themselves. They have been sitting on the sidelines since 2008,” Dakers said.

The value of apartment property in West Hartford should continue to have a positive impact on West Hartford’s Grand List in the future, Dakers said, with about 1,000 new units in progress.

“The environment right now is ready for new construction in the apartment area,” said Dakers. It’s a statewide as well as a national trend, he said.

Blue Back Square, which is valued at $79,794,290, is West Hartford’s top overall taxpayer for 2016, followed by Westfarms (valued at $57,586,270) and Corbin’s Corner (valued at $42,378,420). The remainder of the top 10 are CL&P (now Eversource), Town Center West Associates (29 South Main St.), McCauley Center Incorporated, BFN Westgate LLC (1248 Farmington Ave.), E & A Northeast Limited Partnership (333 North Main St.), Bishop’s Corner (E&A) LLC (2523 Albany Ave.), and Prospect Plaza Improvements LLC (245 Prospect Ave.).

Lexham West Hartford Owner LLC, is one of the top taxpayers for real property, with holdings valued at $15,700,790 for 2016.

Other contributors to the Grand List include the value of motor vehicles, which has increased by $6.8 million – or about 1.6 percent – to a total value of $424,182,941. In comparison last year’s increase in motor vehicle values was only 0.6 percent.

Business personal property values for 2016 are $180,732,820, reflecting growth of $4.2 million, or 2.4 percent. The prior year’s growth was 1.6 percent, and the year before that personal property values were virtually unchanged.

The Grand List is just one component of the town’s budget – the first step in the process of determining the mill rate for the upcoming fiscal year. The current mill rate is 39.51 for real and personal property, and 37.0 for motor vehicles.

“It was a strong growth year and we had good growth in the Grand List, and not just increases in values,” Van Winkle said. While growth in the Grand List generally results in a decrease in the mill rate, he said there are too many uncertainties remaining to make a prediction at this time.

The state has indicated it will decrease grants, and Van Winkle is waiting to see what in included in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s state budget that will be presented next Wednesday.

West Hartford currently gets Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) of almost $20 million. That’s a major contributor to the town’s budget, but Van Winkle said that compared to other municipalities West Hartford is funded at the third-lowest level of what the existing formula indicates the town should receive. There have been discussions at the state level about changing the formula. “Maybe a new formula will help,” Van Winkle said.

“Whether the legislature will adopt it is another question,” Van Winkle said of the governor’s budget, which adds another degree of uncertainty to the town’s budget process. Van Winkle said there’s a possibility that the capped mill rate for automobiles will be eliminated this year.

“We don’t have any idea,” Van Winkle said. He, like many other town leaders throughout the state, would like to see the legislature quit dictating to municipalities through the budget process and allow towns and cities greater control over their budgets.

“We need predictability out of the legislature,” Van Winkle said.

The budget for 2017-2018 will be submitted to the Town Council on March 8, 2017 and adopted on April 25, 2017.

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