Stewart: We Must Get Creative to Increase Revenue to Pay for City Services

We must get creative to increase revenue to pay for city services

The start of the 2019 Connecticut legislative session began on January 9 and less than one month into the session, proposals like tolls, a grocery tax, and regional school districts could profoundly impact your life.

Which is why before each legislative session, I share with our city’s state delegation priorities that I feel are important facing New Britain and are deserving of their voice and advocacy at the Capitol; priorities like funding for education, state reimbursement for exempt property that cannot be taxed, and money to maintain our waterways.

As your elected leader, it is my obligation to communicate those needs.

New Britain is Connecticut’s eighth largest city and one in which 48 percent of all property is non-taxable due to the presence of non-profits, state buildings, and hospitals, which means we don’t have a lot of places to pull money from.

Because of this, we must get creative and innovative in how we ensure that residents and business owners continue to have access to the services and quality of life that they have come to expect.

Without the ability to collect any tax from the many tax-exempt properties in New Britain-and a state that refuses to reimburse us fully-we bear a heavy burden to make do with what we have. I am encouraging the delegation to fight for our fair share of funding. While we do receive a Payment in Lieu of Taxes, it is substantially less than what we would receive if these properties were taxed at the full amount. And in the last budget year, the city’s municipal aid was cut by the state to the tune of $1.2 million.

I have also proposed to our delegation a concept that would allow us to institute a service fee. It would be extremely helpful to municipalities if the state were to allow the local authority to institute a service charge for services on non-profits who are exempt from property tax. This money would go a long way in paying for public safety and other municipal services that local government must provide. Currently, these services are provided without reimbursement.

It is important to strike a balance, so I have also brought to our legislative delegation’s attention important quality of life issues as well. The city has allocated bonded funds in 2018 for the dredging of the pond at Stanley Quarter Park, but additional resources are needed for two of our other ponds.

The ponds at Martha Hart Park (Doerr’s pond) and at AW Stanley also require dredging. From geese droppings to out of control weeds and plants, our ponds are getting choked and literally dying, preventing families and visitors from fully enjoying our parks.

I’ve also reminded our delegation of several ongoing issues that still need additional resources so that they can be addressed, including assistance with Phase 2 sewer upgrades and road reconstruction on Allen Street, citywide sewer system improvements to meet federal mandates, and funding to compliment our road paving program.

These are just a few of the issues that I have shared with our delegation.

I encourage you to reach out to them and let them know what changes you’d like to see. Please, don’t forget to vote during this month’s special election on Tuesday, Feb. 26! One of our state senators has left her elected post, which means a new person will be elected for the job. We need a change-a strong voice to fight for us.

Erin Stewart is the mayor of New Britain.

This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald on February 4, 2019.