Auto demand bolsters taxable property list in Meriden

Auto demand bolsters taxable property list in Meriden

MERIDEN — An overall increase in motor vehicles accounted for the largest portion of growth in the city’s grand list of taxable properties during fiscal year 2020.

City Assessor Melinda Fonda, in a memo dated Feb. 3, wrote that the grand list’s motor vehicle portion “had enormous growth of 6.38%,” which she added had accounted for 66% of the list’s overall growth.

In 2020, the grand list’s net value increased by $31,288,991, just under 1%, over the previous fiscal year.

In dollar amounts, the total list’s net taxable value went from $3,165,967,454 in 2019 to $3,197,256,445. The net assessment for motor vehicles was $346,453,480 in 2020. That figure represents a more than $20.7 million increase over the net assessed total of $325,660,825 in 2019.

Fonda’s memo was addressed to City Manager Timothy Coon and Finance Director Kevin McNabola.

In it, Fonda attributed the growth in motor vehicle values to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic reduced the supply of cars due to dealerships shutting down,” she wrote. “This increased the demand for used cars, pushing up the values. Cities and towns across the state have seen similar increases.”

The increase in motor vehicle assessments was offset by smaller growth in real estate and personal property.

Fonda wrote that the real estate portion of the grand list had a “notable increase” of more than $4.7 million. After factoring in $653,486,260 of exemptions, the net assessed value of real estate was $2,609,586,104. That total represented a 0.18% increase over the prior year’s assessment.

“The increase is primarily due to new construction and the inspection of current and prior year permits,” Fonda wrote.

In the middle

Personal property had stronger growth, at 2.44%. Under state law, personal property is defined as anything that is moveable and not a permanent part of real estate, such as business furniture, fixtures, machinery or equipment. The net assessed value of personal property in the city in 2020 was $241,216,861.

That growth, she wrote, “is largely due to Yankee Gas adding $7,715,500 in assessed value, Connecticut Light and Power adding $2,144,530 and BL Companies growing by $804,915.”

That growth was offset by an increase in personal property exemptions, which totaled $97,801,229. In 2019, those exemptions had totaled $91,552,551.

Coon, who shared the grand list figures, referenced a recent survey of grand list changes across multiple municipalities compiled by Middletown Tax Assessor Roger Palmer, in saying the city is “right in the middle of communities across the state in terms of grand list growth.”

The mean growth among communities on that list was 1.27%. The municipality that saw the largest grand list growth was South Windsor with 3.64% growth. Waterbury, meanwhile, saw its grand list shrink by 0.89%.

That list showed Meriden had similar growth to New Britain (1.15%) and Berlin (1%).

The latest grand list figures show “that we are maintaining our own,” Coon said.

Differing views

City Councilor Dan Brunet, a Republican member of the finance committee, meanwhile described the grand list growth as “rather sluggish.”

He equated that sluggish growth partly to the city being “pretty much built out.”

Brunet said, “There’s very few buildable parcels left and some of those have been vacant or dormant for quite a period of time — such as the one off of Bee Street.”

Brunet said one would expect to see greater grand list growth considering the recent housing developments in downtown.

City Councilor Michael Rohde, a Democrat who chairs the finance committee, expressed a more optimistic view of the grand list’s growth.

“It’s been slow and it’s been creeping back up,” Rohde said, adding he believed the city was “getting some momentum going” before the pandemic. “Then everything came to a screeching halt.”

One area where Rohde is optimistic is the Meriden Mall, now under new ownership. With a net assessment of $76,432,756, the mall represents the city’s second highest taxpayer, behind Connecticut Light & Power Company, with a net assessed tax value of $81,199,290.

On March 1, city officials will unveil their budget request for fiscal 2022.

The city’s mill rate, $40.86 per $1,000, did not change over the current and past fiscal years. If it were to hold in the upcoming year, the city would collect an additional $1.278 million in revenue, according to a reporter’s calculation.

Exemptions, tax impact

Overall exemptions, including real estate personal property and motor vehicle, increased to $754,948,409. Exemptions in 2019 were $747,100,091.

Fonda’s memo listed four properties that had received tax assessment reductions through state Department of Economic and Community Development tax exemption programs. Those exemptions totaled just over $10.7 million. The state provides 40% reimbursement of revenue loss through a payment in lieu of tax, or PILOT, program.

Mirion Technologies Inc., which owns an office, manufacturing and warehouse facility at 800 Research Parkway, received the largest exemption among them. Fonda listed the property’s gross assessed value at just over $8.318 million. Through the tax exemption program, Mirion Technologies received more than $6.653 million in exemptions. The property’s net assessment with exemptions subtracted was a little more than $1.664 million.

Meanwhile, local incentive programs have produced more than $20.7 million in assessment reductions. Those reductions include a 100% reduction at Chamberlain Heights housing development at 261 Chamberlain Highway, on a property whose value was assessed at just under $7.465 million.

City Councilor Michael Carabetta, a Republican, said going into budget season he does not envision agreeing to any possible increases in the mill rate.

“In the time of COVID where people have lost jobs, it hasn’t been easy on a lot of people,” Carabetta said. “... I’m going to resist as much as possible any [mill rate] increase.”

Brunet indicated avoiding mill rate increases would require budget reductions. But he said he was unsure how far the council would be willing to go to that end.

“I rethink the previous council was much more fiscally conservative,” Brunet said. “This council has proven to be anything but fiscally conservative.”


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