For Groton, reserve is apparent good news

Finance chief says $2.3 million could be used to cushion next year's budget

Groton - The town has about $2.3 million in reserve it could use to support next year's budget, allowing it to potentially offset spending or cushion the impact on taxes, Finance Director Sal Pandolfo said Friday.

A tax exemption for Electric Boat that recently expired also helped drive an increase in taxable real estate from 2012 to 2013. The town's grand list, or amount of total taxable property, grew 1.1 percent, from about $3.86 billion to about $3.9 billion.

Pandolfo also said Groton would not feel the full impact in the coming fiscal year of Pfizer demolishing its former research headquarters on Eastern Point Road. The building was still standing when the 2013 grand list was compiled, so the real losses, which he estimated at $1.8 million, would not hit until the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Scott Aument, chairman of the political action committee Groton Advocates for Tax Efficiency, said he's happy but skeptical. He said he thought losses would be larger and affect Groton sooner.

"It's kind of head-scratching to see that back in September we had a $2 million shortfall and now we've got an extra $2 million," he said.

Pandolfo said the town collected more than it spent during the 2012-13 fiscal year, so it ended up with an extra $2.6 million in reserve.

He said the town calculated the tax rate based on what it expected to get from the state, then got more.

Pandolfo outlined the town's options in a Jan. 23 memo, which explained that town leaders could do this: Keep $300,000 of the money in the reserve to boost what Groton sets aside just in case, and use the rest - $2.3 million - to offset expenses and minimize taxes.

"So they've got about $2 million they could use to support the budget if they chose to do that," Pandolfo said.

In the grand list, the net assessment for industrial properties, including Pfizer and Electric Boat, increased 5.3 percent, from $566 million to $596 million, mostly because a five-year tax exemption for Electric Boat recently expired, according to a Feb. 7 memo by Town Assessor Mary Gardner. The grand list is based on the values of real estate, personal property and motor vehicles as of Oct. 1, 2013.

Pfizer remained the largest taxpayer in the community, representing $13.1 percent of the total taxable property.

Real estate values rose $30.27 million, or 0.9 percent, with residential real estate increasing about $4.72 million, or 0.2 percent, and commercial real estate falling $4.2 million, or 0.7 percent.

Personal property values increased by $7.33 million, or 2.7 percent, and motor vehicle values went up $3.35 million, or 1.7 percent.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Groton 2013 grand list

The town grand list of taxable property rose in 2013 by 1.1 percent from the previous year, based on the values of real estate, personal property and motor vehicles as of Oct. 1, 2013.

The top 10 taxpayers, total net assessment and percent of grand list are below:

1. Pfizer Inc., $511.9 million, 13.1 percent

2. Electric Boat Corp., $255.3 million, 6.5 percent

3. LCOR Groton Apartments LLC (Ledges Apartments), $21.4 million, 0.55 percent

4. Exit 88 Hotel LLC (Mystic Marriott), $18.7 million, 0.48 percent

5. Groton Development Association LTD (Country Glen Apartments), $17.5 million, 0.45 percent

6. Elk La Triumphe LLC (La Triumphe Apartments), $14.7 million, 0.38 percent

7. CW Groton Square LLC, shopping center, $14.5 million, 0.37 percent

8. Groton Estates LLC (Colonial Manor apartments), $12.2 million, 0.31 percent

9. Branford Manor Association (Branford Manor Apartments), $10.9 million, 0.28 percent

10. Groton Shoppers Mart LLP, shopping center, $10.7 million, 0.28 percent

The total net assessment of the top 10 taxpayers constitutes about 22.8 percent of the total Oct. 1, 2013, net adjusted taxable grand list prior to deliberations by the Board of Assessment Appeals.

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