In a commentary that also appears in the CT Post in which he highlights “the poor that are carrying the greater load relative to their ability to pay,” Republican mayoral candidate Enrique Torres predicts “Not only will the revaluation of 2016 shift the tax burden further to Black Rock and other similar areas, but the overall value of the Grand List will decrease, increasing the mil rate, which will completely stifle any hope for future development.”
Recently, the Connecticut Post uncovered that the city of Bridgeport–working with now indicted former state marshal Charles Valentino and several city towing companies–effectively stole numerous cars from people who owed as little as $100 in back taxes. This practice of car booting and towing has primarily targeted the city’s poor population. I have written a resolution that will curtail this practice. If I am elected Mayor, I would ensure this practice is immediately stopped.
On a different front, I have discovered that for the past many years, our Tax Assessor’s office has likewise targeted some of the poorest areas of the city. Here is an example.
In 2006, 88 Clifford Street on the East End, one of Bridgeport’s poorest areas, sold for $170,000. Surrounded by terribly under-maintained homes, this two-family house was the best on the street. In 2008, the city valued the house at $258,120, approximately $90,000 greater than the sale price. The taxes on this house are $7588. Today, due to the ongoing deterioration of the neighborhood, this house can’t be given away, let alone sold.
In 2002, 132 Alfred Street in Black Rock, one of Bridgeport’s more affluent neighborhoods, sold for $191,000. All of the houses on Alfred are well maintained. In 2008, the city valued this two family house at $204,260, $52,000 LESS THAN 88 Clifford Street. The taxes on this house since 2008 are $6005 per year. Today this house could easily sell for around $250,000. The conclusion you should draw is that Clifford Street is overvalued by at least 500%.
Examples like this one are the norm in both areas. Effectively, the conclusion must be that the city has consciously targeted poor sections of town to subsidize reckless spending. In my 2003 race for mayor, I discovered and helped to publicize that Bridgeport was the highest tax burdened city in America. That status has not changed; in fact, since then we have solidified our lead. Since my wife and I pay high taxes we thought it was the middle class that felt the high tax burden most. I never thought it possible that the poor were affected worst. My research of the Grand List has convinced me that it is the poor that are carrying the greater load relative to their ability to pay.
Either negligently or criminally, the city and its agent Vision Appraisals got it really wrong in 2008. In the eight years since, the Clifford house paid $12,672 more in taxes than the Alfred Street house.
Clifford Street is not the only street so affected. The South End, East End, East Side, West End and pockets throughout Bridgeport are excessively appraised by the city Tax Assessor. This reality does not bode well for the economically stronger neighborhoods. Decades of this tax assessment fiasco has contributed to the abandonment of countless properties and the economic death of massive geographic areas of Bridgeport. To anyone in these areas who has lost his home to the Taxman, know that you were robbed by your city.
Only Mayor Finch has seen the 2012 revaluation which we paid $300,000. After seeing it he illegally destroyed it. That revaluations might have provided some relief to the East End, but it would have increased taxes in the areas of town that would have voted Finch out of office.
In 2016, if Visions Appraisals does their work honestly, Black Rock, Brooklawn, and most of the North End will face massive tax increases, some as high as 100%.
In 2016, if Vision Appraisals cooks the books to protect a politician, then we will continue stealing from the poorer sections. Before November, Bill Finch should be forced to answer for his role in this injustice against the citizens of Bridgeport, especially the poor.
That said, I believe this conspiracy dates back many mayors. The East End could NEVER be assessed with home values greater than Black Rock: NEVER. The only way houses on the East End can be valued greater than those in Black Rock is by a conscious effort by deviant bureaucrats directed by corrupt politicians to overvalue these properties.
Adding further injury to our prospects for revitalization, our most valuable commercial parcels of land are controlled by politically connected companies and are dramatically UNDERVALUED. O&G Industries’ 40 plus waterfront acres pay on average $3,000 per acre. Properties on Gregory Street (in the city’s tough South End) are paying a prorated $13,000 per acre; you can see the unfairness.
Overall, the economically better areas of the city are in for a momentous shock. Not only will the revaluation of 2016 shift the tax burden further to Black Rock and other similar areas, but the overall value of the Grand List will decrease, increasing the mil rate, which will completely stifle any hope for future development.
Our Tax Assessor’s Office is a critical cog in the revitalization of our city. Getting valuations correct is essential to stimulating development. Professionalizing this office is the first step to revitalizing Bridgeport.