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Some Taxes, Some Restructuring: Hartford Mayor Pitches Ideas to Help Municipalities

Jeff Cohen
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin at a press conference earlier this week.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is continuing his effort to highlight the capital city's structural financial problems. And he's giving state lawmakers a few suggestions on how to fix them. 

The city of Hartford's budget is way out of whack -- multi-million dollar deficits are projected for years to come. People use the word bankruptcy. Appearing on WNPR's Where We Live, Bronin said he's cut just about all there is to cut, and there are few other ways to generate more revenue in a city that has an exceedingly high tax rate.

"We have to find a new structure, a new revenue system," Bronin said. "You simply can't run a city on a property tax-based system when the city has less taxable property than towns like Glastonbury, or Manchester, or West Hartford. It just doesn't work."

Half of Hartford's property is exempt from paying property tax. Each year, the state sends money Hartford's way to try and make up the difference; that's called a payment in lieu of taxes, or a PILOT payment. But Bronin said the state -- which has its own budget problems -- has a habit of paying far less than it said it would.

"It's state property," he said. "It's hospitals. It's universities. It's the airport. It's the trash authority. It's the Metropolitan District Commission. And we get reimbursed at a very small fraction of that. So, actually funding the formula that the legislature put in place long ago to recognize what the city does for the region and the state by hosting all of those non-profit entities would get us a good chunk of the way there."

Bronin said a second way to get money to cities like Hartford would be to take it away from wealthy towns that don't need it. And a third could be a sales tax surcharge dedicated to municipal revenue.

"That doesn't necessarily have to be for the big cities, either," he said. "It could be a way to cushion the blow for some of our suburbs and our smaller towns, as well, which are facing real fiscal pressure, too."

Speaking of pressure, Hartford's deficit this year could reach $22 million; next year, it's projected to be $50 million.

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