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Mr. Speaker, We Need You, We Want You, We Love You (Help Us With Property Revaluation)

January 16th, 2014 · 8 Comments · City Budget, City Council, News and Events

Brendan Sharkey

State House Speaker Brendan Sharkey.

City officials are ramping up an effort to persuade Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and Governor Dan Malloy to support the delay of state-mandated property revaluation as the city seeks to regain financial traction and put off a potential spike in the city’s mil rate leading to ear-splitting taxpayer screeching.

The city got a late start in the reval process after Sharkey rejected the city’s request to delay it last year. The city is making one last stab in the upcoming legislative session that starts in February in a potentially messy budget cycle. Without a delay, reval must be implemented.

If Sharkey wants something to gain traction there’s a pretty good chance it will happen. If the speaker says no it’s usually sayonara.

City officials want to delay reval for several reasons including anticipation of tax revenue for development projects such as the Steel Point redevelopment area coming on line. Some of the higher-taxed neighborhoods such as Black Rock and North End could absorb the reval blow. Implementing reval could also juice motor vehicles taxes, scare away businesses fearing a higher mil rate as well as put some fragile businesses over the edge. The city’s current mil rate is 41.855, among the highest in the state.

Connecticut law requires all real estate to be revalued for assessment purposes every five years to bring about uniformity in property values and ensuring  everyone pays their fair share, or so it goes. Your property tax bill is a function of your assessment based on 70 percent of value. In this economy property values have sunk so as a general rule the mil rate approved by the City Council will spike to make up for the reduced assessments in order to fund the budget proposed by Mayor Bill Finch. A lot of this depends on the spending plan the mayor submits.

Opponents to delaying reval, including the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, claim it’s poor public policy to put it off. The more frequently reval takes place, the organization maintains, the more accurate and fair tax assessments will be. Opponents also say delaying reval is nothing more than kicking the can down the road in an attempt to hide budget problems.

The mayor will submit his proposed budget to the City Council the first week of April.

Other municipalities’ recent requests for a delay in reval have been rejected by Sharkey and Malloy so it appears Bridgeport officials must make a case Bridgeport is in a special financial pickle. There is some political risk for Malloy if he inserts himself into the reval equation during an election year, depending on how this shakes out.

Maybe it’s better for Malloy to say “Convince Sharkey!”

Andrew Doba, Malloy’s communications director tells OIB, “Conversations are preliminary at this point. We look forward to working with the Mayor and the delegation during the coming session.”

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    An RFP for appraisal services went out last fall. The appraisal services have been budgeted and approved in the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 budgets. So the City can afford the service that is required in the fifth year to provide values as of October 1, 2013.

    (When the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is released to the public, any day in the last two weeks or coming two weeks, then the City Finance Director can provide a FINAL JUNE 30 2013 Monthly report. It may possibly show how the funds were spent, or possibly they were not spent in one of their categories but in another.

    Sound strange? Not really. This is a take-away from Monday night’s Council Budget & Appropriation Committee meeting where November, 2013 five-month report was reviewed. Finally comments on VARIANCES are back in the report for the first time in over one year. The fertile explanations for how this is put together and what it may mean probably indicates what the public (and Council) get to see is reasonably worthless for informative purposes.

    [So we have to trust, once again, but have no good opportunity to verify fiscal matters. FOI takes you only so far. The City frequently cannot locate after searching for info in print that would be there in a transparent process.]

    Under monthly expense report “Explanation of Variances” we read:
    “Please note that other than the overtime activity (Police, EOC and Fire) noted below, it should be pointed out that the salary lines (51000) are maybe under budget due to the effect of furloughs, other concessions or position management. For budgeting purpose account 0106100000-50700 (Attrition) showed $2 Million for anticipated saving. The actual savings will be found throughout various department accounts.”

    Who practices “position management?” So taxpayers, you can take your time, look through 63 Department accounts to come up with a Net Savings of over $3.5 Million that shows after five months. That is an amount well in excess of the $2 Million Attrition requirement. So what provided that flexibility? Do any more unions need to agree to furloughs or is the job complete after the less than $100,000 reported recently on OIB? Is the fiscal magician waving his wand and predicting behavior? Or accounting for “take it to the bank” contracts, agreements, positions that are vacant and not to be filled? How would your Council person know?

    Does it matter? I think it does and have said so for years now. Police patrol reduced by $987,000, fire by $790,000 and EOC by $309,000 … for Line item 51000. Will this mean more overtime because slots are not filled due to disability, etc.? What does it mean when current employment levels are not provided with the monthly financial reports as is done with the BOE reports? Who can tell. And Grants budget reporting … another day.

    The reval process has probably been contracted and Vision Appraisal expects to be paid for its work. Is the work complete, yet? Some confused answers coming out of City offices these days. If we get a timetable for the process from the City at some future date, we may find the hopefulness in getting a reval postponement has predominated. Thus work was contracted and perhaps rushed? And notices to property owners about decreased valuations, increased mil rate (after budget is set) will set in motion unhappiness and response from the public, and increased attendance at City Council meetings.

    (Some politicians have commented if a tax increase is required 2014 would be the year to raise them enough so the same could be avoided in the year running up to City wide elections in 2015.) The more instant response will be, what happened to my property? What process and comparables were used? Does it look fair? How do I respond? Time will tell.

  • Jim Callahan

    A five-year reval process should allow the community to manage effectively. If the community cannot do that, it is an indicator the community has some issues that need to be addressed. If the community has financial issues to address, they deserve to be before the taxpayers and not hidden away from them.

    I’m not blaming the mayor nor the City Council for this issue. I don’t blame them for wanting to duck. They shouldn’t be allowed to duck for the good of the community.

    The last time the political system ‘managed’ this issue, the house of cards collapsed. I don’t blame the system for that. An error was bound to occur. It was asking too much for one not to happen. The error–made by everyone–was expecting the issue could be managed and could be put off.

    Bridgeport has fallen back into its old habit of postponing issues instead of addressing them. Even though I personally think a rod-and-gun shop is a dumb idea on Steel Point, the administration hasn’t done all that bad promoting development ideas elsewhere. I understand not all of them are going to be home runs. It is not as if things are at a standstill.

    There is not enough of a sense of urgency the status quo cannot stand if you want to recreate a thriving community. From what I read here, the mayor’s office ‘gets it’ but I’m not sure the City Council gets it.

    The Legislature shouldn’t give the city slack on reval for the city’s own good. It may create a bunch of pissed-off taxpayers but that may be what is needed to get everybody working in the same direction.

  • Bob Walsh

    Please Mr. Speaker,
    Save us from ourselves!!!

  • Bob Walsh

    I was on the council at the tail end of the last postponement. It was an utter disaster. Condo prices dropped and their assessments remained the same. Taxes skyrocketed and prices dropped more. People were looking at buying condos for $40K that were being taxed at over $100K.
    There is no long-term gain from this shortsighted solution.

  • Hector A. Diaz

    Anyone from the 130th Town Committee district who is looking to put together a Democratic Town Committee slate please contact HECTOR A. DIAZ at (203)727-4085, it seems my colleagues failed to include me on their list and couldn’t call or visit me to let me know. I will be going to the registrar’s office tomorrow.

  • Hector A. Diaz

    Me coming off the Town Committee has NEVER been a part of any discussions, I’ve been a member of the Town Committee, in one district or another, since the ’80s and if I have to run a primary to stay on then so be it. While I haven’t always seen eye to eye with my colleagues I have always put the needs of the district first and compromised. There are those who hate the election process, the knocking on doors and making phone calls … I LOVE IT!

  • Mojo

    *** Please Mr. Speaker, investigate the way they actually do the property revaluations in Bpt. ***

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