Grand Question For Grand List: What’s The Number?

City fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee, a candidate for City Council in the 130th District covering Black Rock and a portion of the West End, shares this commentary questioning the value of the city’s grand list of taxable property. From Lee:

Who is more important to the future of the City of Bridgeport, bond investors who live outside the community or residential taxpayers on whom a heavy tax burden is impressed each year? You probably know that I have been doing ongoing research into our municipal processes, especially fiscal matters, for over five years. You also will remember that I have repeated governance values of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT and asked the City to trend from where they are to a higher level.

According to the City of Bridgeport, Financial Report June 30, 2013 that is part of the 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR2013) it was stated: “The City’s taxable base remains steady with the October 1, 2012 with a Net Taxable Grand List at $7 Billion.” One year later the CAFR2014 stated: “The City’s taxable base remains steady with the October 1, 2012 with a Net Taxable Grand List at $7 Billion.”

Notice the identical comment? Why did the CAFR2014, one year later, not reference the October 1, 2013 Net Taxable Grand List? Does it have anything to do with the Vision Appraisal data provided to the City of Bridgeport such that City Finance Department did not wish to make an official statement that would not be exactly factual or correct?

There is a document listed on the Finance Department site that was published November 6, 2014, at least nine months after the CAFR2013 and less than two months before the CAFR2014 was ready to be published. The document contains considerable fiscal info on the City including the CAFR2013 that is referenced as Appendix A. However the pages including comments about the City’s taxable base are not present in the New Issue/Refunding Document. Instead on page 48 there are two charts, otherwise unavailable on the City internet site: 1) Comparative Assessed Valuations of Taxable Property for the years 2009-2013; 2) Property Tax Levies and Collections (2003-2013)

The latter lists the Net Taxable Grand List for each year, growing from $5,165,361,000 steadily in 2003 up to $7.101,376,000 in 2009. 2010 a decrease to $7,022,705,000. 2011 another decrease to $6,986,171,000. 2012 a positive move to $7,052,118,000. And finally in 2013 again a decrease to $6,986,771,000. (There are other revelations in these two charts including the significance of the Wheelabrator court case where the City may have to find expert support for at least the last $100 Million of its valuation to avoid a further decrease.)

Does the trend line appear to sustain or undercut the CAFR statements that the Net Taxable Grand List remains steady at $7 Billion? Is this horseshoes where you get points for being close to the pin? Is this a trend to support the notion of a City “getting better every day?” Does the CAFR2014 quote repeating the 2012 status seem to be a typo error, or possibly an attempt to keep the real nature of our Net Taxable Grand List quiet and secret until after the election? Why do bond buyers get to look at a chart that is not available to taxpayers on the City web site? Is there time before the primary for anyone to raise this subject? Time will tell.



  1. Always appreciate your fact checking, research, attention to details–and informing citizens and our governing bodies of the results of your work. Thank you!

  2. Thank you JML for your continued digging for the truth in our convoluted city finances. And thanks for putting this data into a form even I can make sense of. Bridgeport is lucky to have a watchdog like you.

  3. I am not a voter in your district JML, but have known you for many years and you do your homework and keep everyone informed on data you provide to all. Good thoughts going your way in the upcoming elections. WTG. Vote John Marshall Lee.

  4. John Marshall Lee is the sort of man needed on the City Council. There are too many sheep there, willing to vote for the budgets and resolutions proffered by the mayor’s office. Only a few members have the wherewithal to question the mayor’s prerogatives.


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