Sure, A New Tax, Gulp

1:30 p.m. update. If you want city business leaders to grab a whiskey bottle and revolver the Bridgeport City Council is just the ticket to push them to the edge.

The council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee is considering a tax surcharge on commercial businesses that could generate millions in additional revenues and provide some relief for long-suffering residential taxpayers.

State law, according to Councilman Bob Walsh, allows a business tax surcharge during the implementation year of property revaluation, something that begins for the city for the budget year starting July 1, with a credit that goes to residential taxpayers.

Council members are researching the impact and Finance Director Mike Feeney Tuesday night provided the budget committee several financial scenarios to raise new revenues from an additional business tax. A five percent surcharge, for instance, would generate several million dollars in extra revenues.

It appears the surcharge possibility is being driven by the City Council and not city bean counters. Mayor Bill Finch has stated publicly his opposition to a business tax surcharge. Paul Timpanelli, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, will be howling if this issue picks up momentum. But the fact that Feeney is sharing financial scenarios with the council will cause the business leader and his constituents an ear-splitting migraine.

It’s hard to market the city as a tax-friendly place under any circumstances let alone the threat of a new tax. But Walsh said he would support a five percent surcharge, and he believes there’s an appetite with some council members to do the same, because of the historic tax burden on residential property owners.

Councilman Bob Curwen, co-chair of the budget committee, told OIB he could support a business tax surcharge of no more than five percent, but he would not commit that it would pass through his committee. Another member of the budget committee, AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia who represents the North End, told OIB she’s against a business tax surcharge. “Businesses are already stretched in taxes,” she said, “during severe economic times. We cannot expect to kick anybody while they are down.”

Timpanelli, no doubt, will be burning up the phone lines hoping to persuade council members the hardship an additional tax would mean to the commercial sector. The council’s budget-making committee is expected to vote on Finch’s proposed budget with changes later this week. If it includes a business tax surcharge stay tuned for the screaming.

News release from State Rep. Don Clemons


Supporters use World Asthma Day to call for safer products

State Representative Don Clemons (D-Bridgeport) joined with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and advocacy groups at a State Capitol press conference in support of House Bill 6469, An Act Concerning Green Cleaning Products in Schools.

As hazardous cleaning chemicals have long been recognized as contributors to Connecticut ‘s growing asthma problem, the group used World Asthma Day to bring attention to the school children, cleaning workers, and teachers that are on the front lines of exposure in our schools. Clemons’ father worked as a custodian in the Bridgeport school system for over 30 years.

“This legislation will move Connecticut schools toward a more cost-effective and safe solution for cleaning schools,” said Clemons, who has been pushing the green cleaning concept over the past five years. “Every child and school employee has a right to an environmentally safe and healthy learning environment.”

The types of cleaning products covered in this legislation include: general purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, floor finishes, floor strippers, hand cleansers and soaps, but does not impact any disinfectant, disinfecting cleaner, sanitizer or other antimicrobial products.

The use of green cleaning products for state colleges, government buildings and vocational-technical high schools is already required. Local school districts would have two years to comply.

With no cost to the state and a potential savings for towns, the bill recently passed the legislature’s Education and Appropriation’s Committees and is now headed to the full House of Representatives.

News Release from Jim Himes

Himes to Host Credit Counseling Forum in Bridgeport

Forum provides guidance from experts on personal financial stability, highlight Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights

Congressman Jim Himes will hold a credit counseling workshop in Bridgeport on Saturday. The forum will include presentations from experts in personal debt management and financial literacy. Participants will have the opportunity to ask individual questions and learn how to avoid falling victim to the predatory practices used by many credit card companies.

Last week, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Credit Card Holders Bill of Rights. This legislation would provide increased protections against unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive credit card practices. This bill will help protect American consumers by banning retroactive rate hikes on existing balances, increasing advance notice of future rate increases, and giving cardholders more control over their credit limits.

WHO: Congressman Jim Himes

Joan Carty, President, Housing Development Fund

Janet Siegenthaler, Access to Capitol Specialist, The Woman’s Business Development Center

Carolyn Vermont, Credit Counselor, ABCD

WHERE: City Hall Annex

999 Broad Street

WHEN: Saturday, May 9th

9:30am – 11:00am

UB graduation on Saturday

UB to honor 2 alumni at commencement

The University of Bridgeport will honor two alumni – Lambert C. Shell, Class of 1992, and Russ Landau, Class of 1977, at its 99th Commencement on Saturday. The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. in the Arena at Harbor Yard.

Shell, who will deliver the address to graduates, is a former basketball star for the university who went on to become a national leader in creating youth and teen programs in the Queens, N.Y., Library that serve as a model for libraries throughout the nation. His programs have involved some 12,000 children and teens in the library, and have led to the creation of a new Library for Teens and a Queens Library High School for Information, Research and Technology. A human services major as an undergraduate, Shell led the UB basketball team to consecutive NCAA Division II finals in 1991 and 1992. He was a three-time All-American, Division II Player of the Year in 1992 and finished his UB career with 3001 points.

Landau, who will receive the Alumni Recognition Award, was an accomplished musician by the time he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in music composition and theory. He played with the Paul Winter Consort for 10 years, producing 14 records for the group, including the Grammy Award-winner for Best New Age Album, Prayer for the Wild Things.” He then began composing music for television shows. He is the lead composer for the smash-hit “Survivor.” Last fall he won an Emmy for his theme for “Pirate Master,” a CBS 2007 serial. He has won many ASCAP Film & TV Awards, and the Hollywood Reporter has named him one of the 50 most important people in reality TV. He lives in California but spends summers in Litchfield , Conn.

Shell and Landau will receive honorary degrees.

More than 1,800 will graduate from the university this year. Esther Teo, a top student and biology major who has been a President’s List scholar for the past four years, will be the student speaker. An active leader on campus and student service work, she’s been honored as a student leader and her work leading volunteers in Martin Luther King Day services in the community. She’s a musician, playing piano and guitar, and leads her church worship band.



  1. A 5 % surtax on businesses are they kidding me or what? We have had a flight of businesses leaving the city and now we want to force the people (businesses) out of Bridgeport that have stuck it out and dumped their money here when so many have left.
    This is nothing more than an election-year ploy to get residents to again vote for these incompetents. I can hear them now saying how we fought to bring down the property taxes. How we forced businesses to pay more taxes so that you homeowners can catch a break.
    What are they going to say when businesses start closing down and moving to the ‘burbs? Whoops we made a mistake!!!
    How about just collecting the back taxes that are owed I know that amounts to millions. We are not pushing this scenario because many of the people that owe big bucks are connected to the administration.
    How about cutting the executive staff in doing so you can save a million dollars.
    We should be lowering the business tax to encourage businesses to locate here rather than raising taxes that will drive businesses out.
    Feeney is pushing these different scenarios. When did he get a clue?

  2. *** During the Fabrizi Admin. talk & a minor study was done on a 15% Business Tax. The BRBC & members complained so much about the idea to Fabrizi & the City Council that the idea was put on the city shelves for future consideration. If I remember correctly, the city proposed that BRBC get involved in some type of help towards city community relations for shelving the Business Tax! “Maybe” this is why the BRBC ended up paying half the BOE’s operational study, etc.? ***

  3. There is possible property tax relief coming for some CT residents in the form of SB 997 allowing municipalities the choice of delaying the implementation of their last revaluation. I will be in Hartford today with my First Selectman Tom Buzi lobbying for this bill.

    The current law requires municipalities to tax property based on its “fair market value” (assessed amount), on July 1, based on the value determined for the preceding October’s grand list. Therefore, towns that revalued their property in the 2008 assessment year must implement the revaluation starting July 1, 2009. SB 997 provides that towns which revalued or must revalue real property in the 2008, 2009, or 2010 assessment year to delay revaluation to the 2011 assessment. It also allows towns phasing in assessment increases from earlier revaluations and scheduled to implement a phase-in step for the 2008 assessment year to suspend the phase-ins for up to two years until 2011.

    Before a town may implement either type of delay, it must be approved by the municipality’s legislative body. The existing statutory five-year revaluation or phase-in schedule for any town that adopts a two-year delay must resume after the delay at the point where the delay started. This means a town that revalued its property in 2008 can delay implementation until 2011 but must do another revaluation in 2013.

    EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2009 and applicable to assessment years starting on or after October 1, 2008.

    I know New Haven supports this bill along with Monroe and many other towns and cities. I don’t know about Bridgeport Legislators, but Mayor Finch does not want this bill obviously because while it provides tax relief for property owners the city would collect less money.

  4. MCAT I need some clarification. If we postpone the revalution for a few years what is the real benefit to the taxpayers? I understand that the assessment will not go up but we still have bills to pay as a city. Doesn’t that mean that the mil rate will have to go up to cover these expenses? So it appears that this is sort of a catch 22 one way or another we are going to pay. Isn’t it true that if the mil rate is lowered per revaluation the tax on our vehicles would be lowered as a result of a lower mil rate?

  5. Interesting concepts being discussed.

    One of Bridgeport’s problems has been the lack of appreciation on commercial properties. For instance the Connecticut Post reval last time around never appreciated from its $700k value. The mil rate then went from 55m to 40m. This brought about significant savings on their property and their personal business property tax liabilities. Couple this with yearly depreciation of business and motor vehicle equipment and it was a real bonanza for many commercial properties. Meanwhile many residential and condo properties got whacked in that market reval.

    The real appreciation boom took place during the ’03-’07 boom. This affected everyone but once again the burden is on the homeowner. Approximately 70% if not higher of our Grand List is being absorbed by residential properties.

    The Connecticut Post property is now assessed at a value of one million dollars.

    A five percent surcharge, in my opinion would not be a deal breaker if you are getting the property on the cheap. The Peoples’ Bank Property was sold for less than it was assessed for.

    Actually what we really need is an addition by subtraction type study of properties in Bridgeport. If a property is blighted don’t rehab it if the net cost to the city is a negative value when costing out the revenue to expense ratio on subject property. Example is if a blighted multifamily house is rehabbed and it brings in $7k but is costing us $28k in education, garbage collection and public safety costs it’s a losing proposition. I know it may sound harsh but it is a harsh reality that is being addressed around the country. Con Filardi turned me on to this concept that is being utilized successfully in Flint, Michigan.

  6. Sounds like Up On Bridgeport is a Con Man. So you have a blighted building and you don’t fix it. First of all in Bridgeport a major portion of the assessed value comes from the property. So it is not like you can simply ignore your property and eventually pay nothing. Secondly, if the city is doing its job then the anti-blight ordinance kicks in and additional fines, etc. can be levied. And finally UOB and the conman should realize by now, blight spreads more rapidly than the swine flu. So I guess the solution is let blight take over the city, no one will want to live here, there will be no one left requiring services so there will be no need to tax anyone.
    The city has tried that once already; it’s called Steel Point.

  7. *** The actual re-val inspections must have been done when property owners were not home, or early in the mornings ’cause no one I’ve talked to has ever seen or spoken to any inspectors concerning the process. However for the re-val “appeal”, well that’s a different matter altogether! They put you through the wringer and then some. As a matter of fact, I spoke to a homeowner who I believe is in Bob Walsh’s district & he’s thinking of suing due to the way he claims he was treated during the appeal process. So I’ll be getting in touch with city clerks for your business # Bob. If this fellow is in your district, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of his story! Some of the reval appeal process stories I’ve heard are scary, if in fact true? ***

  8. Mojo; I must be one of the few that was home when they came to the door. I did alright with them coming in because the information they had on my house was incorrect. They had me down for a full basement when in fact I only have a partial basement, they also had me down for one too many bathrooms.
    On my street there are a few of us that are retired so we saw these people but the majority of my neighbors work and never saw these people. So it was guesswork at best.

  9. Bob,

    Sorry I wasn’t clearer regarding blight. If it is a blighted, burned-out building with no value, the city takes over the property and turns it into a community garden. I understand the “Tipping Point” factor of blight. My point is if your cost of goods is 140% to your cost of sales why bother with that property and increase your cost of goods? We don’t need any more loss-leader sales maybe just smarter leaders. I’m with you on the 5% and Steel Point. Also what are you and your council members doing on illegal zoning re-write not allowing public comment in violation of state statute.

    BTW–I live in a 57-unit condo on less than an acre of land with no kids and we bring in about $375k in property taxes. That makes economic development dollars and cents.

  10. In my opinion, the tax structure should be two tiered. If a property is vacant or underdeveloped as per the classification on the zoning map, it should be taxed at a much higher rate than a property with a performing structure, or a strict tax agreement with timetable needs to be put in place by the City Council. The City is at a severe disadvantage if properties remain vacant or underutilized. Hartford and New Haven have been fighting for this legislative change that would apply only to the cities.

    If you look at City Trust, Arcade and 144 Golden Hill, they are no longer vacant and abandoned. There are now almost 200 new apartments along Main Street. Fewer than 10 units have kids. About 180 of the units are leased by mostly market-rate tenants. Most tenants have only one car. Same goes for the Lofts at Lafayette, those 100+ condos replaced a vacant blighted former factory, all are occupied and less than a handful of units have kids. There was a tax fixing agreement necessary to make the deals pencil out with the financial investors but the City is the better for the private investment that was generated. Think of all that disposable income that is now spending money in the city. That disposable income is providing the basis for new restaurants and retail establishments because the market studies now show positive activity. My point–there needs to be tax treatments to push the private investment of vacant or underutilized property.

    Now if the property is contaminated which is very common in Bridgeport, a different strategy needs to be put in play. Two examples come to mind.
    Take the South Ave or the Housatonic Avenue sites that are owned by DiNardo. Both were severely contaminated vacant sites. In the two-tiered structure, DiNardo would have been taxed at a much higher rate if he kept it vacant. Since there wasn’t statutory authority to do that, the tax agreement reached with the City Council and the timeframe attached to it resulted in DiNardo cleaning and developing those sites. Both sites now have buildings with new industrial tenants. The United Rentals building will generate over $4 million in personal property taxes for all of their equipment rentals. The South Ave site, now remediated has a new industrial building going up and a new approx 30,000 sf commercial tenant on the way in. The asphalt plant cloud is gone on that site and those that live at Seaside Village are much happier. I know some OIB bloggers love to dump on DiNardo but through the tax treatment and the timetables that the City Council approved, new private investment is really happening. As far as these two properties are concerned, the bad rap is unwarranted in my opinion. The tax treatment made the deals financially feasible and the City will benefit from significant additional tax revenue.

    I don’t believe a business surcharge makes sense in this economic climate. Shelton is already an advantageous location for business. A business surcharge will just push more businesses up Route 8. A two-tiered tax structure makes more sense but it needs legislative action in Hartford.

    I do believe we need to straighten out the zoning mess. It has gone on way too long and with the changeover in the members of the PZC, the Board that is in charge with implementing the City’s long-term vision has lost its way.

    1. *** Well said countdown, though “unpopular” then & now, most residents of Seaside Village were more than willing & in favor of the South Ave. DiNardo Tax proposal that was authored by myself & supported by a majority of the council members @ that time. But due to a mess up by city clerks, the first resolution with different item # was the one voted on, instead of the 2nd one which was rewritten per suggestion of the E.C.D.C. & also a state legal opinion on the matter with some assurances to protect the city of Bpt. as well as Seaside Village & surroundings, that were placed in the contract language. It later came up again with the right info. early the following year after I was gone from the council & had a much harder time passing the 2nd time around! As unpopular as it was with some taxpayers; due to the high number of contaminated abandoned ex-industrial sites in Bpt. & the zoning regulations and tax structures. Bpt. could use more developers willing to work out a win/win deal with the city & get more of these sites cleaned up, developed & back on the city tax roles! ***

  11. TC

    I know that the council does not have a vote on zoning rewrite. However, they should be jumping up and down on behalf of their constituents on a blatant breach of the law with their illegal opinion given to the P & Z regarding public comment on as you have pointed out about “Spot Zoning”. Turning Greenwood property to 85 multifamily units is not the same type development that countdown is talking about. We still need less housing and more jobs. The downtown residents, although they help, are not the driving force for restaurant development. It is the synergy of a trading area that is driving these fine restaurants. Still they are severely challenged in a tough economic climate. You can’t keep the doors open on just Friday and Saturday night business.

  12. The council budget committee is proposing a business tax because they don’t have the balls to make the tough decisions and cut the do-nothing political positions. So they are trying to shift the cost onto the businesses. This is why we need new blood on the council. We need to elect people who don’t work for the city or have relatives who work for this city. We need council representation who will do the right thing for the city. Period. Our current representation, with a few exceptions, is not capable.

    1. They should start looking into Testa’s little redhead over at the Eisenhower Senior center. See if she is still having her coffee and toast, instead of writing grants and operating the place herself.

  13. Up on Bridgeport: I agree with you 100%. The council should be jumping up and down over what is taking place with the zoning rewrite. The only 2 council people that I know who have expressed an opinion on this rewrite were Lyons & Paniccia.
    This bastardizing of a 2-1/2 year project is the reason my wife was forced off of the P&Z. As the chairperson she would have prevented what is happening now. Finch and friends knew they could not get this through with her there.
    Politicians who stated they were fighting to keep her on were all lying and that became obvious as this latest bastardization of the rewrite takes place.They are all benefiting by this bastardization.
    The council reinforced their bought and paid for tag when they voted to approve the latest addition to the P&Z.
    When the spot zoning and 250-ft set backs start appearing in their neighborhoods I can’t wait to see what these council people have to say.
    When contractor storage yards start appearing around the city and the dust and dirt starts flying around what will they say? What will the east side say if another asphalt plant appears because of spot zoning?
    Anastasi & Conte do what they are told period. Need a ruling just wait they will make one up to suit the occasion.


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