Hartford Business Journal

January 27, 2020

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www.HartfordBusiness.com • January 27, 2020 • Hartford Business Journal 19 Visit www.adl.org/fhfg20 to learn more. Questions: Contact Lisa Ratcliff at lratcliff@adl.org or 203.584.2512 Sponsor Recognition Deadline: Monday, March 9 ADL Greater Hartford Event FIGHTING HATE FOR GOOD ™ THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2020 5:30 PM – Cocktail and Dinner Reception followed by program and dessert REGISTER OR BECOME A SPONSOR TODAY Honoree: Jeffrey A. Flaks President & CEO of Hartford HealthCare Speaker: Megan Phelps-Roper Author, Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church ADL_STD2020_Horiz_HalfPg-Ad.indd 1 1/17/20 1:37 PM public accountant, or licensed real estate appraiser. The pro- posal takes aim at "tax represen- tatives," which are companies, sometimes based out of state, that tend to be high-volume appeals filers and refer a case to attorneys if it gets to court. • A mandate requiring property owners to provide an appraisal if their case gets to court. John Chaponis, assessor for the towns of Windham and Colchester and a longtime legislative com- mittee member of the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers, said the sheer number of appeals puts pressure on the court system to resolve them, "and taking every single one of them to trial is not a viable option [for municipalities]." As a result, municipalities, which often have limited budgets to defend appeals, can get "left shorthanded and backed into a corner, leaving only an unfavorable settlement as an option," he said. (Property tax appeals are first heard at the local level, but if they can't get settled there, they move to New Britain Superior Court, to be weighed by a judge trial referee.) The proposed reforms, Chaponis argues, would help municipalities better defend their grand lists (or "gold chests," as he sometimes calls them) and ensure a fairer system. "Every assessment reduction for one property is a tax increase to every other remaining property in town," he said. Chaponis said New Jersey, where he previously worked as an assessor, dismisses appeals that don't have appraisals. The opposition Connecticut cities and towns have unsuccessfully pushed for reforms before, and have run into opposition from law firms, large commercial property owners and other interest groups that argue requiring an ap- praisal would be overly costly and give an unfair advantage to municipalities. "All these proposals would make it more expensive for businesses to vindi- cate their rights under the property tax system," said Gregory Servodidio, chair of law firm Pullman Comley's property tax and valuation department. Eric Gjede, a lobbyist for the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, said appraisals can be costly, and that a ban on contingency agreements would amount to unfair and burdensome regulation. "You're going to run into cases where business owners simply can't afford to bring a good ap- peal in any other way, and you're going to essen- tially deny those people an op- portunity to have their day in court simply because this is an unbud- geted expense," Gjede said of CCM's proposed reforms. Hartford exem- plifies frustra- tions The city of Hartford is the poster child for the property tax appeal issue. The city's high property tax rate — 74.29 mills — makes it more likely property owners will challenge their assessments. The city saw approximately 1,200 appeals filed in 2017, the year the city's five-year revaluation led to a spike in many commercial-property assessments. In 2018, there were more than 300 property tax appeals. In Bronin's five-year stabilization plan, he projected grand-list growth of 0.1 percent in fiscal year 2019, and 1.5 percent in fiscal years 2020, 2021 and 2022. The fiscal 2020 target was missed when the grand list shrank by 1 per- cent last year, and the 2021 target is expected to fall short, too. The targets aren't just set for fun. Every percentage point amounts to roughly $3 million in city revenue, so the stakes are high. Meanwhile, Bronin is counting on 2-percent growth from the city's next revaluation, which he said will be key to maintaining Hartford's financial stability. Reforms are needed, he argues, "particularly because we have so much riding on the reval that is coming in 2021 and will show up in our budget in fiscal year 2023." Greg Servodidio, Chair, Property Tax and Valuation Department, Pullman Comley Eric Gjede, Lobbyist, Connecticut Business & Industry Association LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW

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