WETHERSFIELD - Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin will visit Wethersfield on January 9 for a public meeting-titled “Our Capitol City’s Future”-to be held at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.
Bronin, who has been making the rounds through area municipalities in order to explain the source of Hartford’s financial woes-the city is $50 million in the red this year, and expects to be again the year after-as well as to propose solutions that include fuller funding under the state’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) formula for tax exempt properties, and inter-municipal cost sharing.
Bronin made his case for the former at a recent appearance in Rocky Hill, calling on town residents to push their legislative delegation to advocate for “fairer” funding under the PILOT program.
While the city has “made some mistakes”-with union contracts made long before the current crisis and the controversial baseball stadium project-Hartford has tried everything from raising taxes to cutting staff and other service budgets over the years, but lasting remedies need to come from the state level, Bronin said.
Collectively, municipalities throughout Connecticut lose $700 million on tax exempt hospitals, universities, and other nonprofits, according to the 2016 Candidate Bulletin Report authored by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, (CCM). Bronin is listed among the directors involved with compiling the information.
Although the formula calls for a 77 percent reimbursement, CCM’s current year estimates were closer to 29 percent, the report said.
In Hartford, more than half the property is tax exempt, according to the report.
But a fully-funded PILOT program-while desirable-is less than realistic in a fiscal climate in which the state’s own deficits are expected to prompt cuts in crucial areas that include Education Cost Sharing (ECS) and other streams of municipal aid revenue, said Senator Paul Doyle and State Representative Tony Guerrera at the Rocky Hill meeting.
The delegation’s first priority, therefore, needs to be preserving as much of what towns receive now as possible, Doyle said.
During his presentation, and in the open discussion with town residents that followed, Bronin advocated a city-centric approach to economic growth, citing the role places like Hartford play in producing job opportunities for state residents throughout the region.
He also ruled out declaring bankruptcy, stating that even a favorable ruling in that regard would limit the city to reopening union contracts-a process that is already ongoing. The situation would also negatively impact its credit standing-an impact that would be felt throughout the state, Bronin said.