The West Hartford Town Council held the second of two hearings on the proposed 2022-2023 budget on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.
By Ronni Newton
Five residents spoke at the second of two public hearings on the 2022-2023 budget Wednesday night, sharing some of their concerns about the increasing cost of living in town with West Hartford Town Council members.
Dmitriy Frumkin, whose letter to the Council regarding the budget was shared with We-Ha.com a few weeks ago, said he understands after speaking with Acting Town Manager Rick Ledwith that there is no simple solution to addressing the inequities resulting from the latest revaluation, where homes in the Elmwood area as well as in the neighborhoods directly north of Albany Avenue and east of King Philip Drive on average increased in value much more than homes in other parts of town.
“There is a major tax burden shift,” Frumkin said, with the lowest income taxpayers being hit with the largest percentage increases. While the town’s mill rate may decrease, it won’t compensate for the increased value for these homeowners. In addition, he noted that the value of commercial properties has decreased in the latest revaluation – about 50% for Blue Back Square and 20% for Westfarms – further shifting the tax burden to residents.
“I spoke to the town manager and he indicated he shared the concern but it is very limited what the Town Council can do about it,” he stated, other than phasing in the revaluation – something he urged the Town Council to consider. He also urged Council members and residents to speak to our legislators and lobby for reform such as tiered tax brackets or property tax credits.
“I’m hoping in the future something can be done about this,” he said.
Revaluation is required every five years by state statute, but not every town in the state is on the same five-year cycle. The PDF below, provided by the town, illustrates the change in value for homes resulting from the most recent revaluation.
Resident Andrew Bachman, who said he has lived in West Hartford for 36 years and also owns a business in town, Trout Brook Landscaping, asked the Town Council to exercise as much restraint as possible in budgeting in this era of inflation and unprecedented increases in business expenses of about 15%. “The town should exercise restraint to any abatements to big business, and should look to doing some kind of abatement to small business,” he said.
Rich Witt is a resident and also owner of a law firm in West Hartford. “I’m noticing that I’m doing more and more closings for people over 65 in town,” he said, which is a troubling trend that older people can’t afford to stay in town.
“Taxes are proving to be the same as exclusionary zoning,” Witt said, and his calculation is that the average tax increase this year will be 10% for homeowners.
Witt also noted that construction projects are underway all around town, “and none of it seems to flow down to the residents for tax relief.”
It would be a shame to lose the people who have lived in town for generations due to rising tax burden, he said, because having long-time residents is what makes the town so special. “It’s just not good,” he said of the trends that are happening.
Resident Larry Carr raised some specific questions about departmental budgets, but Council members are not permitted to respond to questions during a hearing.
Gary Muldoon, who was the lone speaker at the March 16 budget hearing, suggested that the town look carefully at every single departmental budget.
“My suggestion is everywhere. Every single department including the fire department, police department … we have to go through every department and talk to everyone. … Where do we cut? Everwhere, every department, nobody’s exempt.”
Ledwith presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget to the Council on March 8. The $317.9 million spending plan would raise taxes by 3.06%.
To generate the needed revenue to meet budgeted expenses, the proposed mill rate is 39.83 mills, a decrease of 2.59 mills (6.11%) from the current rate of 42.42 mills.
The Council has held multiple workshops since the budget was presented, and has been meeting with directors and representatives of all departments as they conduct a review of the spending plan.
The Board of Education approved its 2022-2023 budget Tuesday night, with minor changes from the original proposal. That budget is part of the town’s overall budget, which the Town Council is scheduled to adopt on Monday, April 25, 2022. That meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.
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