Property taxes increase the cost of everything for everyone – Hartford Courant

Each day we read about taxes — Gov. Ned Lamont is attempting to reduce them.

Towns such West Hartford, where I live, are trying to make revaluations less painful. Mayor Luke Bronin of Hartford wants to reduce property taxes for Hartford. He should remember, before he cuts too much, that residents of Connecticut have already bailed out Hartford from an expensive bankruptcy and we are unlikely to do so again soon.

What we really need to do is wipe out, and redesign, the most expensive tax in the state — property tax. Let’s dispel a couple of myths first:

Myth 1: I don’t own property so I don’t pay property tax.

Do the gas station and the grocery store where you buy gas and groceries pay property tax? Then you do. Those merchants must account for costs and if those costs rise they will be passed on in higher prices.

If you rent an apartment and your landlord receives a higher tax bill, he will need to raise your rent. Even if you have a lease, that is only temporary protection. Like the grocer and the gas station, the landlord needs his rents to cover his expenses. When leases expire rents will increase.




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Property taxes increase the cost of everything for everyone.

Myth 2: Only rich people own property

We pay property tax not just on homes and buildings but on cars. And there are many people with cars who are not rich. That said, not everyone who owns a house is rich. There are hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who own their own homes and are squarely in the middle class. But remember myth 1. Just because someone doesn’t own property does not mean they do not pay property tax. Property taxes increase the cost of everything for everyone.

Myth 3: If the value of a house decreases its property taxes will decrease proportionally. So it’s only right that when the value increases the rate goes up.

Looking at the West Hartford town website for my house, the net value the town assigns our property is half of what we paid for it. But the taxes on our house are double what they were when we bought the place. Running comps on other houses shows that this is the rule, not the exception. As home values dropped, the town increased the tax rate so property taxes stayed the same or increased. So it would hardly be fair to increase our taxes now, even if our house doubled in value we would be back to where we were when we bought the place in 2004.

Connecticut needs to rationalize property taxes around the principle that when home values decline, taxes decline. We cannot continue to use the mill rate to make up for low valuations. We need to understand why the rest of New England saw low values rebound after 2008 and why it took a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and the deaths of a million people to make people want to move here. High taxes — property and otherwise — is part of it. Let’s make Connecticut attractive, without a pandemic.

Aaron Frank lives and works in West Hartford. He works helping businesses use technology to solve their problems.

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