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Saturday, January 30, 2010

GRAND LIST - No-growth grand lists mean facing up to ‘sobering reality’

Wallingford’s inventory actually declines, a sign of hard times

WALLINGFORD — The town released its 2009 grand list Friday, showing a decrease of $1,676,759, or about 0.04 percent, in the value of the town’s taxable property and real estate.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. termed the surprising drop a “sobering reality” of the tough economic times the town, state and nation are facing.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this,” said Dickinson, who has held office since 1984. “I would say it’s a more troubled fiscal situation for the town go­ing into the 2011 budget than it was for the 2010 budget.”

The town’s current budget of $140.3 million grew by less than half a percent from the previous year, but from 2007 to 2008 the grand list grew 1.02 percent, giv­ing the town with an additional $1 million in tax revenue.

Dickinson said the new grand list, at $4.3 billion, means the town will enter the next budget year about $300,000 short in tax revenue, making an already tight budget even tighter.

“The bottom line is there will not be revenues generated beyond what we received in the current year for budget purposes,” Dickinson said. “So every budget that requests an increase, there is no new money generated to cover that increase ... there is no new money except for asking for higher taxes.”

Two of the list’s three categories, real estate and motor vehicles, actu­ally increased, at 0.62 percent and 0.95 percent, respectively; but per­sonal or business property saw a sharp decrease, of almost 8 percent. Assessor Shelby Jackson attributed the drop in personal property to two major factors: more businesses al­lowing equipment to depreciate without replacing it, and a new state law that exempts some machinery and equipment that had previously been taxable.

“It’s sort of like getting hit dou­ble,” Jackson said. “The assets are going down and we’re exempting more of what we would normally tax.”

Among the town’s top 10 taxpay­ers there was little movement, with Bristol-Myers Squibb far outpacing the other nine on the list with $126.95 million in taxable property and real estate.

The town’s seventh-highest taxpayer, Work­stage Connecti­cut, owners of the 325,000­ square foot Campus at Greenhill on Leigus Road, owes more than $750,000 in back taxes and is be­ing foreclosed on by the town. Comptroller James Bowes said it was wrong to as­sume that the town would not recoup that money. “The law office is all over it,” he said. Dickinson called the grand list a “critical tool” in fashioning the town’s annual budget, which by Town Charter he must complete by April 1.

“This is one of those indicators that really tells you what is going on with the economy and what will have a direct effect on our delivery of serv­ices,” Dickinson said, adding that it appears the town will have to face “a lot of tough decisions” in the coming months.

The grand list is not officially ac­cepted by the state until May 1. Be­fore that, the town’s Board of As­sessment Appeals will consider appeals from property owners who want to dispute assessments. The grand list will affect tax bills due in July 2010 and January 2011.

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