Wallingford town councilor seeking more info on BOE building costs

Wallingford town councilor seeking more info on BOE building costs

WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Gina Morgenstein has asked that the Board of Education “itemize separately” costs for building maintenance and insurance in its budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni forwarded the request in a Dec. 20 memo to School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo.

Morgenstein said Friday that while she made the request, “it’s really premature to have much more to say than that.”

She said that the request is a follow up to a motion she made during last year’s budget meetings to move some expenses from the education budget to the general government side of the budget.

The motion failed, because the other councilors felt it was too last minute.

“The reality is that it’s time to distribute our tax money evenly,” Morgenstein said, “and (look at) where we can make an effort to consolidate costs more effectively in a way that is fair to everyone.”


Cervoni said Thursday that he believes Morgenstein’s request is part of an effort to change the ratio of the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) that Ashlar Village at Masonicare pays.

“I don’t know how much support it will get,” he said. “When we looked at it last year, a motion was made in an attempt to do something like that and it failed. The makeup of the council has not changed but for one out of nine. I don’t think it’s going to change direction.”

Morgenstein said that her request isn’t aimed necessarily at Ashlar Village, a senior housing community, but is a first step in a general look at consolidating costs townwide.

In 1987, the town and Masonicare settled a property tax assessment appeal by the Masonic Charity Foundation of Connecticut. The nonprofit organization wanted Ashlar Village to be tax-exempt, but the town rejected that claim.

The agreement states that Masonicare would make an annual payment for the Ashlar Village property, the amount of which would be calculated based on the town’s tax rate less the number of mills attributable to the education side of the town’s entire budget.

Lower tax rate

In the current town budget, 61.15 percent, or $103,461,862 out of $169.1 million, goes toward the Board of Education. The tax rate is 29.19 mills.

That means Ashlar Village is taxed on 11.34 mills, according to a June 3 letter from the town to Masonicare COO J.P. Venoit describing the assessment and payment calculation for 2019-20.

The assessed value, using the 2018 grand list, came to $44,243,770, meaning the total payment for the fiscal year is $501,724.

If Ashlar Village were to be taxed on the full amount, the payment to the town would be nearly $1.3 million.

Ann Collette, Masonicare vice president of strategy, said Friday via email that the organization had not “been informed of the proposal nor its impact.”

“However, we are confident that the agreement which supports the continued care and well-being of seniors will not be interrupted,” she said.

Town Assessor Shelby Jackson said Friday that Masonicare is taxed different ways for the different properties it owns.

Some properties are tax-exempt, like the main hospital. Some are fully taxable, like the apartments on the lower campus, medical office buildings and the Masons’ Grand Lodge.

Masonicare is Wallingford’s sixth-largest taxpayer.

School budget

The itemized costs from the school district were not immediately available, but Menzo said Thursday that he would provide the Town Council with a breakout of building maintenance and insurance costs.

Menzo presented the education budget request to the Board of Education Wednesday. At $110.3 million, it constitutes a 6.6 percent increase.

The school board’s operations committee is slated to meet again in the coming week to discuss the budget request.

The full board is scheduled to vote on the budget, with any revisions it makes, during its Feb. 24 meeting. From there it goes through the mayor’s office followed by review from the Town Council.

Twitter: @LCTakores

Read the 1987 Ashlar Village agreement.