Norwalk political notes: the mall, the mill rate and a motion

A new sign in The SoNo Collection.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some little items for you:

  • SoNo Collection stats
  • OPM compares mill rate data
  • ‘Motion to go woo-woo’


Calls to police, calls for a ride

The first 10 days of The SoNo Collection resulted in 13 Norwalk Police Department calls for service, Lt. Terrance Blake said.

That’s from Oct. 11 to Oct. 21. “These calls range from medical assists, larcenies, alarms, lost property and suspicious persons,” he wrote Tuesday.

A mall retail employee told NancyOnNorwalk this week that the structure has high definition cameras covering just about every square inch. There are some people coming into the city to check out the mall’s vulnerabilities, but they aren’t getting very far, according to the employee.

Altar’d State has opened in The SoNo Collection.

Then there’s Wheels2U, the currently free on-demand microtransit service operating Thursday through Saturday evenings and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday in Norwalk’s urban areas. This is what evolved from talk of a circulator when the mall was in its early stages of the approval process; basically, it’s a large van. You schedule your ride via an app.

The first weekend, from Oct. 10-13, there were more than 39 riders on Wheels2U traveling to and from The SoNo Collection, according to “As more stores continue to come on board, they anticipate seeing this climbing higher,” he wrote on Oct. 16.

The second weekend, from Oct. 17-21, there were more than 63 riders used Wheels 2U to travel to and from the SoNo Collection, he said.


State mill rates

Compared to other Connecticut cities, Norwalk’s mill rate is low.

That’s the gist of an Oct. 12 Patch article, which features information provided by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management. Here’s a sampling of information:

  • Hartford 74.29
  • Waterbury 60.21
  • East Hartford 49.11
  • Bridgeport 53.99
  • New Haven 42.98
  • New London 39.9
  • East Haven 32.42
  • Milford 27.71
  • Danbury 27.6
  • Stamford “A” 26.35
  • Stamford “B” 25.64
  • Stamford “C” 25.33
  • Stamford “CS” 25.77
  • Norwalk 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th districts 23.315


Kudos for Biagiarelli

Norwalk Tax Collector Lisa Biagiarelli got an unusual reaction in September when she delivered her monthly report to the Common Council Finance Committee.

“Would be very appropriate to say Woo-woo?” Finance Committee Chairman Greg Burnett (D-At Large) asked.

Norwalk had collected 99.4% of the actual adjusted levy in the 14-month period auditors were looking at and “that’s actually a very good rate for a levy that’s as high as ours,” she had said.

Yes, he could say “Woo-woo,” she said, suggesting that he do it again.

“Make a motion to go ‘woo-woo,’” he joked.

“We also are starting to now think about the second installment billing which if you remember I usually try to get that done around November, around Thanksgiving time,” she said. “Get it in the mail by the second week of December, because we don’t want people spending their holiday money.”

And, “It was a very clean collection. There were no major issues, there were no major problems,” she said.

The tax sale will be in July and, “We’re starting to come up with what we think our criteria might be,” she said. “We’re probably going to want to do very similar to what we did last time to try to get in about $5 million on the sale.”

Burnett thanked her for her work and said, “Let’s hit 99.5 next year.”

The October Committee meeting was cancelled.

Biagiarelli’s Oct. 10 memo gives an update:

“As of the end of September 2019, three months into our new fiscal year, we had collected more than $173 million, or 52.37% of our $330 million adjusted tax levy. In addition, as of the end of September, 2019, we collected more than $8 million of our sewer use levy, or 48.31%. We also collected 74.56% of the year’s IPP (Industrial Pretreatment Program) fee on behalf of the Water Pollution Control Authority. Compared with the prior fiscal year, our tax collection rate is slightly behind by 0.19%.

“With regard to prior years’ collections, through the month of September 2019, we showed a net collection of more than $1.5 million in back taxes, interest, lien fees and other fees.”


David McCarthy October 25, 2019 at 7:37 am

Mil rate is virtually arbitrary. It’s a number established to raise a certain amount of funds based on assessments, which are handled differently city to city. Hartford has unnaturally low assessments, therefore they have a high mil rate. Pick a person in Hartford and look at their assessment and compare it to Zillow. Their taxes are not three times ours.

Drew Ablank October 25, 2019 at 12:11 pm

When reading to first part of your article in regards to police calls it reminded me of a frequent commentator from the past – Rick. Whatever happened to him? Move? Health? Banned?

Jo October 26, 2019 at 7:59 am

What’s the mill rate for the 5th taxing district (which I believe is Norwalk’s largest geographically) and 6th? I realize this snippet just cites Patch, but begs the question.

Mike Mushak October 27, 2019 at 10:01 am

I’m glad my friend and Florida resident David McCarthy brings up the Zillow method of looking up taxes, and I’m glad he is still advising his old friend Lisa Brinton. Only in McCarthy’s world of Fox-style spin does a tax reduction for most homeowners in Norwalk translate into a bad thing!

Gotta love it! In recent days, I have fact-checked about a dozen of Lisa’s vocal supporters on various sites who complained their taxes have exploded under Harry Rilling, including Lisa herself and even the guy who started a page called “Norwalk Taxes Too High”.

In every instance I looked up their property address and checked Zillow, which is all public record, and guess what? Their taxes are lower than when Harry Rilling was elected, and in most cases they are lower than they were 14 years ago in 2005!

In all my 20 years here in Norwalk, I have never seen so many lies being pushed by a political party in Norwalk as I have by the Lisa Brinton campaign fully backed by the Republican Party, and I am pretty sure who we can thank for that.

Let’s not forget it was Dave McCarthy who spread racist flyers around West Norwalk a few years ago and was outed in the press, and it was Dave McCarthy who accused his Democratic opponents in District E of “elder abuse” when it was he himself doing the abusing as the gentlemen clarified. All on the record! The projection was a classic Republican tactic, including “lock her up” being yelled by folks who are now in jail (Flynn, Cohen).

The blatant false narrative being pushed here by so many Republican party hacks, that Republicans will lower your taxes and Democrats have raised them, is the exact opposite of reality, as the facts prove.

In Norwalk, it has been the Democrats including Harry Rilling who have been the party of fiscal conservatism and smart growth, growing our grand list and taking the burden off residential taxpayers while simultaneously investing in improving our schools and infrastructure.

Norwalk isn’t perfect, no city is, but we are in much better shape than we were when the Republicans controlled City Hall and stagnation in the grand list and school investment and huge annual tax hikes were the rule, not the exception.

That is one reason why the Norwalk Hour has endorsed Harry Rilling for Mayor in today’s paper, putting it like this: “he has demonstrated a much better grasp how things work and what is feasible and what is not.”

It is clear Lisa Brinton has lost any grasp she one had of how things work, when she is pushing a false narrative that most homeowners including herself saw a tax increase when in fact most saw a decrease as the undeniable facts prove.

Lisa Brinton’s own home in Rowayton with a swimming pool has seen over a million dollar increase in valuation since she bought it, and her taxes are still 2% lower than they were in 2005, 14 years ago! And they dropped 9.2% or $2,075 this year based on the huge jump in our grand list from all the smart growth we are enjoying.

And the other false narrative that Lisa is pushing, that Harry gives out tax credits to developers, has been completely debunked since he hasn’t given out any, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from continuing to say it. That alone should be an automatic disqualifier among smart voters, regardless of party.

Vote for Harry Rilling and the Democrats on November 5th, the party of smart growth, better management, and lower taxes, and reject the party of Trump and all the lies and deceit which sadly we are witnessing right here in Norwalk by the Lisa campaign as I write this.

Debora Goldstein October 27, 2019 at 2:45 pm

So the 50% tax abatement and enterprise credits for the Mall are not tax credits. Got it! Good thing there’s a “fact-checker” working for Rilling.

Mike Mushak October 28, 2019 at 8:24 am

@Deb Goldstein, yes, I agree with you, fact-checking is important. As usual, you are just plain wrong with your facts!

Now we can see why Lisa Brinton, who you advise, is so far off base with her false narrative about Norwalk and about Harry Rilling, a false narrative that is crumbling more every day upon closer scrutiny. Read my last comment for a better perspective on the lies being told.

As far as tax credits for the mall, that had nothing to do with Harry Rilling, and it is astounding you don’t know this by now since you usually claim you know everything.

The tax credits the mall received were granted under the Enterprise Zone ordinance passed in 1982, under Republican Mayor Thomas O’Connor. Heres the link so you will know this next time.


Furthermore, the mall is a $600 million private investment in our great city, will still pay $45 million in property tax to Norwalk over the next 15 years, is providing 2500 jobs lifting many folks into upwardly mobile career tracks they otherwise wouldn’t have had, will pay $28 million a year in sales and payroll taxes, and has put Norwalk on the map as a world-class destination for investors and new businesses.

That is hardly a “mistake” as Lisa Brinton classified the mall in the debate last week. She also has insulted the new employees there as “low-skilled minimum wage jobs” which is outrageous and of course not true, and reveals a disturbing level of elitism as someone who just doesn’t understand that not every Norwalker has been lucky enough in life to enjoy a huge $1.4 million house in Rowayton with a swimming pool.

I could go on but I’ll stop now. I’ve just never seen a mayoral candidate so disassociated from the real diversity of what Norwalk truly is all about, as well as being so clueless on how cities actually work.

Vote Democrat Line A on November 5th for professionalism, experience, lower taxes, and fiscal responsibility!

Bryan Meek October 28, 2019 at 10:37 pm

As an undergraduate Math major, I am struggling to find Mr. Mushak’s frame of reference. It’s not binary, although it is always it always is a singularity for his party preference. It certainly isn’t the decimal system. I don’t think it’s the hexadecimal system, but perhaps he thinks AAA zoned homes with 16 people living in them qualify????

On the other hand while some of her points are good, I don’t agree with a lot of Ms. Goldstein’s positions. That said, I can assure anyone here who doesn’t already know that if a tax scheme were transparent, she would be in full knowledge. The fact even she is confused, suggests what a lot of us are saying about the questionable schemes at play.

Debora Goldstein October 29, 2019 at 1:32 am

I am not confused. I know the enterprise credits predated Harry. I also know the mall could not have benefited from them, had the LDA not been modified to permit the amount of retail required for the mall to make its profit margins.

I note that MM ignored the tax abatements.

Nobody said the mall wasn’t going to produce jobs and economic activity. These are irrelevant to the point of whether the mall pays its fair share of property taxes.

This was a mall that the Mayor was against prior to being elected, after which the flip-flop to supporting it led to a land speed record approval process.

Usually abatements are an inducement to get a new employer into an area. In the case of the mall, there was no need to provide an incentive, since the enterprise tax credits had already induced them to purchase the property.

Mr. Meek is correct. We often disagree on policy, but i listen closely when he talks numbers. They are always actual numbers, not hypothetical projections.

Mike McGuire October 29, 2019 at 7:30 am

@ M Mushak

Mike would you kindly fact check the following. The Redevelopment Agency issued two reports that supported the Wall-West Avenue Plan which was passed this past spring. Both stated that the majority of all the properties in the Plan area where blighted (1st report) or deteriorating (2nd report). Mayor Rilling then made sure to push through those narratives with both the CC and the Redevelopment Commission. He sat in on both meetings and supported the the claims made by the Redevelopment Agency.

Here is the rub – According to the assessor the average value increase in this area is around 44 percent, and every property except three experienced a value increase, the Mayor was very proud of this value growth achievement. But the Mayor, just this past spring, forced the narrative that the area is blighted (1st report) and that the bulk of the properties in that area had actually deteriorated (2nd report). To measure deterioration you have to have a starting point and an ending point.

So which is it? Are the properties in the Plan Area blighted/deteriorating, or are they experiencing a 44 percent increase in value between assessment periods? Mathematically both these premises can’t be true at the same time.

In fact the above conundrum put Norwalk into another very costly law suit this past summer. yet again the Norwalk Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for sloppy governance.

M Mushak, what are the facts? Taxpayers what to know.

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