Big increases in the tax bill worry Trumbull

TRUMBULL – Dave Allen has lived in Trumbull all his life. The 69-year-old said he has always loved his city, but that love was recently tested when he received his property tax bill.

“My tax bill is up $1,300 from the year before,” said Allen, who lives on Pemberton Drive. “That’s a 17 percent increase.”

Although the bump is “not a hardship” for Allen, who is still employed, he described it as “significant” and “one of the biggest raises I have ever seen”. Allen said he’s not the only one seeing a big property tax hike.

“I’ve talked to a few of my neighbors and their tax bills have gone up around that amount of money,” he said.

It’s a complaint first-time coach Vicki Tesoro has heard a lot, so much so that she released a lengthy statement on the city’s website detailing why property assessments and taxes had risen as much as they did.

“I’m very worried about taxpayers,” she said. “I live here too and I never want to see our taxes go up.”

Although unhappy, she said the increases were somewhat inevitable due to the state-mandated reassessment that took place earlier this year. Reappraisal is the process of obtaining updated real estate appraisals of city properties.

Trumbull’s last reassessment was in 2015, and the city was supposed to do one in 2021, but Tesoro delayed it for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on city ​​businesses. She said she tried to delay it for another year, but was unsuccessful.

As a result, the reassessment ended up shifting over $7 million in property tax burden from commercial ratepayers to residential ratepayers. This is largely due to the fact that commercial property values ​​have declined during the pandemic. For example, Tesoro said, Westfield Trumbull Mall, the city’s biggest taxpayer, lost more than $110 million.

A city paper presented at a Finance Council meeting last month said that under the new mill rate of 33.64, taxes could rise by an average of 15%. But Tesoro said that figure was misleading because revaluation can lead to vastly different valuations, even for homes in the same neighborhood of comparable value.

Tesoro and some other officials, including Finance Council Chair Lainie McHugh, said the upside of the revaluation is that many homes have gone up in value. But that’s cold comfort for those like Allen who have seen their tax bills soar.

“I’m a big supporter of the Town of Trumbull, but these taxes only make the Town of Trumbull very unattractive to residents and businesses,” he said.

McHugh and Tesoro said the tax increase was not the result of overspending by the city. In the statement posted on the city’s website, Tesoro said the city’s approved budget for 2022-23 has a 3.24 percent budget spending increase, which is below the rate of inflation. McHugh echoed those thoughts.

“I think the change (in taxes) for some is bigger than for others. My own property taxes went up about $1,000,” she said. to do with our expenses. We have done a very good job of limiting expenses and keeping city services in place.”

Not everyone agrees with that, including Republican Finance Council member Elaine Hammers. She said she talked about the city using about $4.6 million in U.S. federal bailout funds in the 2021-22 budget.

McHugh said the city used a combination of its “rainy day” fund balance and ARPA money to make up for lost revenue due to things like lower return on investment due to record interest rates and some city programs – such as those run through recreation. department – which have been closed due to COVID.

“We have chosen to keep tax increases as low as possible in 2020 and 2021 for our taxpayers, residents and businesses, during the economic crisis caused by COVID while continuing to provide our schools and vital services,” McHugh said. .

Hammers said the use of ARPA funds last year put the city in a difficult position this year. “Taxes are the result of what we spend,” she said. “And I’m not saying we spend money lightly. I say we created a hole using federal funds that we are paying now. »

But McHugh said that wasn’t true. “Our hope this year is that revenues normalize, new developments are made in our big roster, and programs are up and running so there is no funding cliff in the future,” he said. she declared.

Regardless of the cause, all city officials interviewed said they were aware this was a difficult fiscal year for many residents. Tesoro said there are ways residents can help mitigate their costs. One is the child tax refund, recently signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont. Some residents may be eligible for a discount of up to $750 – $250 per child up to three children.

Tesoro said she heard residents’ concerns, but there was little that could have been done to prevent this. “I know people are upset,” she said. “I understand.”

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