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Mayor Finizio: Tax hike would not bite equally

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published March 05. 2014 4:00AM

If the pregame chatter is any indication, it seems pretty clear that New London Mayor Daryl Finizio is going to ask for a big tax hike when he unveils his newest municipal budget.

I think if you ran into the mayor today and asked him where his car is parked, he would somehow work into his answer a reference to the need for the city to have more tax money.

During one of his big-tax warm-up talks, the mayor explained how revaluation will factor into the discussion of raising taxes again in the city.

As taxpayers know, the city will be using its state-mandated, five-year revaluation of property tax assessments to calculate the next change in the mill rate.

I know people tend to glaze over when talk turns to revaluation and mill rates. Indeed, it can be confusing.

I will venture forth anyway with my simple understanding of how it works, revaluation 101, and how the mayor expects to use it to his advantage in the coming debate about raising taxes.

The city's revaluation numbers are now clear enough to identify winners and losers.

The winners, for tax purposes, according to the mayor's characterization, are the people who have residential property away from the city's best, waterfront neighborhoods.

The losers, for tax purposes, are the people with expensive waterfront houses and owners of some of the city's commercial real estate. This could include some of the city's biggest taxpayers, like The Day, the car dealers on Colman Street and the owners of apartment complexes or shopping centers and malls.

In any revaluation, if you want to pay less in taxes, you want your assessment to go down relative to the average. If the grand list goes up 10 percent, for instance, you want your property to go up 10 percent or less. That way, you bear less of a percentage share of any tax increase. If the average of the grand list goes down, you want your individual assessment to go down by a bigger rate, in order to pay less.

The way the mayor characterizes the city's recent revaluation, it is the owners of houses away from the water in less extraordinary neighborhoods who generally would pay less of a tax increase.

Owners of waterfront property, for sure, would pay a bigger share of an increase, he says.

As you start mixing into the equation a bigger municipal budget and the need to raise tax revenue, the revaluation gets more complicated.

What could make this budget season even more confusing is that the mayor says he doesn't plan this year to calculate a new mill rate with his budget and any proposed tax increase.

Normally, in a year when your assessment is the same as the year before, you can calculate pretty easily how a proposed budget will impact your own taxes. If taxes are going to go up 5 percent overall, then your tax bill is going up 5 percent.

With revaluation, though, the math could be much more complicated to determine your proposed tax bill, without a proposed mill rate.

When the mayor offers his budget proposal and its expected tax increase, city taxpayers deserve an easy calculation that will let them determine exactly how much they will pay.

After all, voters have the ultimate veto power, the right to petition for a referendum on the budget.

When the new budget comes out, taxpayers should insist on a calculation to show exactly how it will change their tax bill.

Beware of New London's budget debate this year, since it seems to be rolling out as a preamble to the next mayoral race.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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