Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Mill rate down almost 25%, but taxes make huge jump

By: Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 28, 2007

VERNON - While the mill rate may take a drastic 23.7 percent dive down to 1992-93 levels, taxes on residential properties are expected to rise on average by 16.5 percent, town officials say.

Town Finance Officer James Luddecke, who released his estimates today based on Mayor Ellen L. Marmer's proposed $75.7 million budget, cautioned that his figures were conservative and include an allowance for typical motor vehicle taxes per household.

According to his calculations, under the proposed budget, residential homes assessed at $150,000 will see their taxes go up by $611 on average, while taxes on a single-family dwelling assessed at $200,000 will increase by $858 next fiscal year.

And residents with homes assessed at $250,000 will pay an added $1,105 in taxes, while those assessed at $300,000 will see a $1,352 increase on their annual tax bills should the proposed budget be adopted intact.

Luddecke says that taxes will decrease for some, however.

Renters and mobile home owners will see an average decrease of $97 in their personal property tax from $408 to $311 for motor vehicles, and there should be no changes in taxes on residential mobile homes.

Industrial property will see a collective estimated decrease in taxes of $97,265 while commercial property will similarly go down by $59,645, Luddecke said.

Due to revaluation, property values in most cases rose dramatically as the 2006 grand list soared upwards of 41 percent, and real estate values swelled by more than 50 percent, shifting the tax burden from commercial to residential.

The grand list is used to figure tax bills for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. The list reflects property values as of last Oct. 1.

The town budget sets the mill rate for tax collection purposes. A mill is roughly equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

Under the mayor's proposed budget, the tax rate will decrease by 8.69 mills, or 23.7 percent, down from the current 36.73 to 28.04 mills.

The proposed spending plan, which is being debated among Town Council members in a series of budget hearings, calls for a 7 percent increase in spending and is slightly more than $5 million over the current year's budget of $70.7 million.

Had there been no revaluation, Luddecke says, real estate growth in the grand list would be up approximately 1.37 percent, and the tax rate would have increased by 6.7 percent, or 2.45 mills, to 39.18 under the mayor's proposed budget.

Taxes would still increase, but not nearly as much as the approximate 16.5 percent the majority of homeowners are now facing.

Deputy Mayor Jason McCoy, a Republican, called Marmer's budget address "smoke and mirrors" and said the spending plan itself is balanced on the backs of kids and seniors.

"It's totally inappropriate to say she is cutting taxes when they are, on average, going up 20 percent, and spending went up 5 million," McCoy said, adding "The value of the town's grand list significantly went up, but it still didn't pay for her spending spree."

Republicans have done their own calculations for individual neighborhoods and found that newer homes in areas like Butternut Lane will see taxes increase by 14 percent, while Sutton and Tallwood Drives will each see a 9 percent hike.

Their numbers show that older neighborhoods, like Rockville, will go up 30 percent, however, primarily because they've appreciated more in value since 1991 when the last full-scale revaluation that included inspections was conducted.

According to state statute, municipalities are allowed to gradually phase in assessment increases resulting from a revaluation up to a five-year period.

For example, Manchester is phasing in its recent property revaluation over three years. As a result, its grand list rose 15.6 percent this year as opposed to the 44.7 percent increase that would have occurred had the revaluation been implemented all at once.

Enfield, where a recent real estate revaluation swelled the town's 2006 grand list of taxable property to about $3.172 billion - an increase of 52 percent or more than $1 billion over the previous year's list - is considering a phase-in program as well.

Marmer said today that is not an option for Vernon, as it costs more in the long run, would adversely affect the town's bond rating, and many residents want it done in one fell swoop.

"This is a financially prudent budget with a significant decrease in the mill rate," Marmer said, adding that comments from Republican members were "nauseatingly similar" to remarks made in each of the last three years.

And still "they fail to list appropriate information or give constructive ideas on how to meet the needs of this community," Marmer said.

Broken down, the tax increase for a single-family home assessed at $150,000 comes out to roughly $1.25 a day, Marmer added.

"For a $1.25 look what's being obtained here," she said. "I challenge anyone to just ride around town and see all the progress being made. The percentages sound bad, but the realities of $1.25 to provide this community with everything that's needed is really something to be proud of."

Budget hearings will continue tonight at 7 at the Senior Center. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 29, and will highlight education.

Copies of the mayor's proposed budget can be viewed at the Senior Center on Park Street and Rockville Library on Union Street. Summaries can be obtained in the town clerk's office in Town Hall, or viewed at the town's Web site:

©Journal Inquirer 2007