Recent calls to overhaul CT’s property tax system, addition of ‘mansion tax’ getting pushback from some lawmakers, business owners

Connecticut

Conn. (WTNH) — It’s the tax pretty much everyone pays: home and vehicle. But not every tax is equal. Cities and towns set the mill rates and they can vary.

Property taxes vary from town to town in Connecticut with some people paying $800 a year on the taxes for a Chevy Traverse, and someone in the next town paying half that for the same car. Now, the president of the state Senate – one of the most powerful politicians in the state government – wants to change that.

In Hartford, the mill rate is 74.29 and in Greenwich it is only 11.68.

There are differing opinions, but many say the property tax system in CT needs an overhaul.

Mayor Ben Florsheim (D) of Middletown said, “I think we need a stem to stern property tax reform and I think this is an interesting proposal to get that started. One of the reasons that CT has such a high cost of living…taxes get blamed but it is important to look at how those taxes break down and the property tax is a burden of working and middle-class families.”

State Senator Martin Looney is expected to outline his plan Tuesday to overhaul the system, which some say would level out taxed town to town. But some republicans oppose it, arguing it’s just another tax on top of the property tax.

Mayor Enzo Faienza (R) Cromwell said, “Yes it might be fairer in his mind, but I don’t think it is fair because you are adding another tax in difficult times…..not only am I the mayor, I’m also a small business owner.”

Tuesday, we learned more about the property tax reform proposed by one of the most powerful Democrats in the state capitol, Sen. Looney. One element is being called a ‘mansion tax’ – a proposed mill tax on homes worth over $435,000.

Right now, there are about 4,600 homes higher than $435,000 on the market, and tens of thousands more being lived in right now.

Some say that’s too high.

Sen. Looney, “A home with a market of $500,000, that homeowner would pay $50.”

Sen. Looney spelled it out, saying his plan would raise $74-million that would be distributed to cities and towns in need of property tax relief and property equity, including cities with large amounts of non-taxable properties like hospitals and government buildings.

But what is a mansion? One very large home in Rocky Hill and a tiny house in Old Lyme are both valued at just under $500,000, so both would be subject to the proposed tax.

Republicans vow to fight it.

Minority Leader State Senator Kevin Kelly (R) said, “What they are going after is solid, middle-class homes in every community, in every town in Connecticut. What this is is a far-left agenda to redistribute wealth…this is where a narrative is being told. The Democrats are going after the rich that’s why they use the term ‘mansion tax.’

News 8’s Dennis House spoke to a few people at the West Haven beach Tuesday about the proposed tax. They are all against the idea, even though their homes wouldn’t be subject to the extra tax.

Brent Coscia of West Haven said, “If you happen to have bought a house and you did a lot of work on it and it improved in value you should not have to pay more taxes on it.”

Mike Doyle added, “I think everyone should pay the same number. If your house is worth more you have a higher assessment you’ll pay higher taxes…it should go to your own town. That’s the way it should be; it’s our money, we should be spent our way.”

Sen. Looney says the extra tax is about fairness: “There are lots of ways we could provide greater municipal aid in a way with greater equity if we had a better and more lightened tax structure. We are hampered in so many ways by those great disparities. People who visit Connecticut are shocked at the extraordinary contrast in CT that exists within such a very very short geographical distance.”

Wednesday, however, a major business organization came out against the proposed tax, as well as a leading Democrat in the state.

State Senator Saud Anwar says his leader’s $435,000 figure is too low.

State Senator Anwar said, “I understand where he is coming from, but I think the threshold he has capped is a little too low and it impacts many people whom I serve and represent…In my mind, anything in the $1.5-million plus range is something we should at least look at first.”

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association gave a thumbs down to the proposal, saying it would hurt the record number of businesses that opened during the pandemic and the 25,000 people who have moved to CT in the COVID-19 era.

Chris DiPentima, CEO of CBIA said, “To have those folks move in and all of a sudden whack them over the head with a property tax increase when property taxes are really high, it doesn’t send the right message”

The median home price in CT is just under $350,000, but it varies across the state: in East Hartford, the median price is $152,000, Madison is over $499,000, and Darien $1.6-million.

Republican State Senator Henri Martin knows these prices because he works in real estate.

He acknowledges something needs to be done to fix our property tax system, but at first blush doesn’t like Looney’s plan.

Sen. Martin said, “I need to know a little more about the details. Right now I’d say ‘no’. I just see it as a tax and thrown in with legislation that is being currently proposed. They are talking about raising our gasoline tax and that could cost an average of $300 a year.”

This is going to be a hot-button issue for sure this session. Governor Lamont has said he is not in favor of additional taxes, though he said he favors some sort of property tax reform. Sen. Looney says he’ll work with him going forward.

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