Last month bean counters from H&R Block declared Bridgeport suffers from the highest tax burden in the country. How do these folks calculate this stuff and is it real? Mayor Bill Finch cried foul, saying the blockheads did not include all the variables to reach such an excessive conclusion.
OIB asked Ben Barnes, secretary of the State Office of Policy and Management (state budget director) how the state measures tax burden among its municipalities. Barnes, who occasionally shares his financial wisdom with posts on OIB, asked Dave LeVasseur, his financial undersecretary, to respond.
While there is no one single measure of tax burden among Connecticut’s municipalities, one measure that we capture in our Municipal Fiscal Indicators (which you can find on-line on the OPM website) is the Equalized Mil Rate. It is computed by taking each municipality’s Equalized Net Grand List and the adjusted tax levy.
LeVasseur attached a chart from “our 2011 Fiscal Indicators.” See the top five below from the 168 towns and cities listed.
3 NEW HAVEN
5 WEST HARTFORD
We then asked David Walker, a Bridgeport resident who served as United States Comptroller General from 1998 to 2008, for his take on calculating tax burden. His response:
The best way to compare effective property tax burdens is by determining the percentage of the actual property tax as compared with the full fair market value of the property. This takes the gaming out and Bridgeport and many other CT cities are outrageous on that basis … CT is the “Land of Disparities.” The state must step up and address education, taxation and other major disparities in the absence of county governments.
Walker provided the chart included above that he illustrates during his speaking engagements around the country in the cause of pointing out growing tax burdens. “The CT figures relate to Bridgeport,” he says. “The other state figures are based on total state and local tax burden for the largest city in the respective state.”
Okay, taxes are high in Connecticut cities. Is this really about Bridgeport, or more about Connecticut’s taxing policies owning the highest tax burden in the country and how it distributes municipal aid? Is this the result of the Democratic-controlled legislature spending and spending and spending after repeatedly raising taxes? In Connecticut we have property taxes, car taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, business taxes. How’s your wallet?
Governor Dan Malloy wants to eliminate taxes on motor vehicles without holding municipalities harmless for the revenue loss. Municipal elected officials are lobbying state legislators to put the brakes on Malloy’s proposal.