February 2, 2009

Bucking economic trend, Bristol's Grand List rises a bit

Despite a sour economy and a dip in the number of costly cars on the property tax rolls, the city’s Grand List rose slightly.
“We can probably consider ourselves somewhat fortunate,” Mayor Art Ward said.
The $4.3 billion tally of the city’s taxable property was up a little less $10 million over last year thanks to continuing growth at ESPN and a scattering of new homes and business across town, according to City Assessor Thomas DeNoto.
The rise is “a silver lining in a year that could have been devastating,” the assessor said.
Last year, the Grand List rose 38 percent on the heels of a revaluation that captured the residential real estate market at its peak. Another revaluation won’t take place for a few years.
The increase for this year – which comes at a time that a number of municipalities have seen their property tax rolls take a dip – is driven entirely by the rising value of real estate in Bristol.
The real estate roll, which covers buildings and land, rose $31.3 million, which includes 28 new homes, the L.A. Fitness building on Farmington Avenue and ESPN paying more for its buildings as tax exemptions fall away.
The biggest blow came on the motor vehicle list, which fell from $342 million to $320 million in a single year, the result of people buying fewer cars and a drop in the overall number of vehicles on the tax rolls.
DeNoto said the woes afflicting the Big Three automakers clearly filtered down to Bristol, where “gas guzzlers” fell out of favor and people stopped purchasing big new cars.
Ward said it’s natural that people are “tightening their belts” to cope with an increasingly severe downturn.
There are 54,479 motor vehicles on the city’s tax list, which is 192 fewer than a year ago, according to DeNoto’s figures.
The personal property tally – mostly the equipment used by businesses – fell $2.2 million over the past year, the Grand List shows.
“We’re lucky to have any growth” considering the decline in the motor vehicle and personal property lists, DeNoto said.
He said it shows the underlying strength of Bristol’s economy and programs that it could see new development during such a difficult period for so many businesses and residents.
Helping to keep the personal property from falling further were ESPN’s readiness to remain on the cutting edge of technology, DeNoto said, along with a number of other factors, including the road construction equipment in town for the Route 72 extension.
DeNoto said that he expects next year’s Grand List to remain “stagnant at best” given the economy, though car sales might pick up again.
It should help, too, that ESPN is still building, the new city industrial park is likely to have a couple of new factories and some other development is possible as well, DeNoto said.
The Grand List does not include hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exempt property, including Bristol Hospital, churches, cemeteries and parks.

ESPN towers over rest
The city’s largest taxpayer, ESPN, owns taxable property worth only $2.4 million more than last year.
That’s because much of its growth doesn’t count until it’s been on the property rolls for years.
But its $247.8 million tally on this year’s Grand List is almost eight times as much as the city’s number two taxpayer: the Covanta trash-burning plant.
Since taxpayers actually pick up the incinerator’s property tax bill, through the regional trash agency, that’s probably just as well.
City Assessor Thomas DeNoto said he’s not concerned that ESPN alone pays 5.6 percent of the city’s property taxes because the company is so clearly committed to remaining a part of the community.
“They’re just a fabulous property owner,” DeNoto said. “They’re always cutting edge.”
The company wouldn’t have built backup power plants to run its operations on the ESPN campus off Middle Street, he said, if it had any thoughts of moving away.
Besides, DeNoto said, ESPN has always been “very forthcoming” about its plans.
“They’re an open book to the city,” he said.
Other top taxpayers include Bristol Center, the current owner of the former General Motors plant on Chippens Hill; Bristol Plaza; Bristol Commons; Carpenter Reality, the owner of Pine Plaza; Lake Compounce; Connecticut Light & Power; and two manufacturers, Barnes Group and Theis Precision Steel.

TOP 10 Taxpayers

1 ESPN $247.8 million

2 COVANTA BRISTOL $42.8 million

4 BRISTOL CENTER $36.3 million



6 BRISTOL PLAZA $22.6 million

7 LAKE COMPOUNCE $19.4 million

8 BRISTOL PLAZA $16.7 million


10 BARNES GROUP $13.9 million

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

It ain't gonna get any better!

Just what does Ward have in the pipeline like what he inherited?

Looks like he will be leaving his successor with a bare cupbaord!

Concerned Conservative said...

Hey, they might as well raise property taxes then, right?

Anonymous said...

thank god for george carpenter !!!!

Anonymous said...

Just think if Rosenthal had accomplished anything over the past few years (except be a fundraiser for Ward)

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that someone can answer this question for me. If our bond rating was increased, property tax collection is up, the grand list is up and our pension funds are overfunded where exactly is the financial budget deficit coming from? I know the State of Connecticut is probably going to be pulling the strings on state aid, but if the tax dollars are rolling in, how can it be such a "doom and gloom" situation. If we just put off the capital improvement prejects for a few years and tweak the BOE budget, seems to me we should be in good shape. I just don't get it.

Steve Collins said...

Let me take a crack at it.
To put the focus only on the schools for the moment, it will cost about $5 million more in the next budget than in this one just to keep things exactly as they are. But it's even worse because the state is eyeing cuts of $5 million or more in education aid.
On top of that, given the magnitude of the state's problems, there will almost certainly be other cuts that have an impact in Bristol, from less road aid to lower reimbursement rates for business equipment that's tax exempt. It could be millions more to make up for.
Put all that together and you have a picture that requires $12 million or more to stand still.
Of course, it may turn out that the situation is less dire. But it could be pretty bad. To come up with that much extra money, the city would need to raise property taxes by 3 or 4 mills -- which is not going to happen.
How it will all turn out is going to be the focus of a lot of anguished debate over the next few months, both in Bristol and in Hartford.
Meantime, let's all hope the economy starts to pick up. That's the only good answer.

Anonymous said...

Grand list is for the next budget, the pension fund is not part of the budget.
Property tax is about the ame as last year, and other revenue sources are down, and will be in the coming year.

I think Kloko is blowin smoke, or did for the bond people.

Authentic Connecticut Republican said...

>>I think Kloko is blowin smoke

Not really his style; he's Bristol's employee, but he's on Southington's Finance Board and just so you "get it", he's a member of the other party so don't take this as my looking out for him or something.

He's a straight shooter.

Anonymous said...

But where does he collect his paycheck and who does he report to?

Is Southington's BOF anything like ours, a rubber stamp?

Anonymous said...

What is Bristol Center?