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The City’s Planned Budget Increase Is Inequitable

Dear Neighbors,

I would like to bring to your attention a planned Norwalk city budget increase that I think is very inequitable and potentially financially detrimental to many Norwalk residents, especially in Districts 1, 2, 3, 6 (Downtown Norwalk, South Norwalk, East Norwalk, Rowayton). The planned tax increases: ~$2,000 tax bill increases for Districts 1, 2, and 3 and ~$3,700k for Rowayton. Motor vehicle taxes will also be increased to the maximum allowed in spite of declining motor vehicle assessments

Under the plan, all residents would lose, but especially the ones in Downtown Norwalk, South Norwalk, East Norwalk, and Rowayton. Some residents there might have to move, unfortunately impacting the lowest income residents the most. 

And who are the winners:

  • Commercial (businesses) whose taxes would decline by 13%, driven by flat assessments and decreased mill rate. While some businesses might struggle, the vast majority should be fine in this economy making a 13% reduction in taxes unwarranted. 
  • City Hall whose budget assumes a 4% increase including hiring new people, i.e. City Hall employees are not sharing the pain City Hall would be inflicting on its own residents (even if unintentionally, which I assume is the case)
  • Within Residential, residents of Districts 4 and 5 (more suburban / rural) would see median increases of ~$1,000 – still very high but much better than the residents of the more urban districts. District 5 (the most rural) in particular shows a 28% increase in Total Assessed Value, yet their median tax bill goes up “only” 9.9% (Still very high, but much lower than other districts which also have lower increases in assessed values)

So, businesses and City Hall win whereas residents suffer, particularly the more urban ones in Downtown Norwalk, South Norwalk, East Norwalk as well as Rowyaton.

Given the above seemingly inequitable budget, what can be done? Below are four points that I recommend:

  • Keep budget flat, or essentially 3.5% to 4.0% lower than the current plan. We trust we have elected officials capable enough to manage such a situation.
  • Keep taxes flat for Commercial and each Residential district by changing the mill rates on Commercial vs Residential and for each district too. Hartford has such a system, i.e. it’s feasible and something our representatives should be able to do.
  • Do not take money from the Rainy Day fund or borrow additional funds. These are for extreme situations, which generally mean a recession or some big city project that residents have approved. 
  • Address the school system which takes ~60% of the budget (and has deteriorated in English proficiency and absenteeism in recent years).
  • Above is only my personal view and I understand there might be other views and potential solutions, all of which should be respected. If anyone wants to find out more or express their views to City Hall, I suggest attending the Board of Estimate & Taxation Public Hearing meeting today, Wednesday March 20th, at 6:30 pm.(instructions at https://www.norwalkct.gov/Calendar.aspx?EID=14640&month=3&year=2024&day=19&calType=0

Regards,

Konstantin Stoyanov, East Norwalk

Comments

19 responses to “The City’s Planned Budget Increase Is Inequitable”

  1. Skip Hagerty

    Sanctuary cities are expensive to run.

    1. Raymond Schier

      ….says the person who was recently cheering on waste, in the form of refilling of an expensive DEI position. Do you even live in Norwalk ?

      1. Skip Hagerty

        Mr. Schier,
        I have to hand it to you. Only a very perceptive person could pick up on how sharply the spirit of my recent comment contradicts that of my prior one.

        1. Raymond Schier

          Mr. Hagerty,

          My apologies for missing your earlier sarcasm.

    2. Kenneth Werner

      Mr. Stoyanov demonstrates it is possible to offer strong, fact-based criticism while remaining respectful and civilized. May he be a model for us all.

      1. Jonathan Gage

        Thank you, Mr. Werner, for supporting and promoting civility and mutual respect in the Comments, Letters and Opinions posted on NancyOnNorwalk. We offer these features in the spirit of providing a digital “town square”– a place for public dialogue, community-spirited debate, and the exchange of ideas not partisan insults.

  2. Ana Tabachneck

    Maybe change the byline?

  3. Bill Waters

    Maybe move to Florida?

    1. Raymond Schier

      Maybe insist that city leaders ensure we live within our means ?

  4. John O’Neill

    Readers might find facts worth knowing:
    1) We live in a city with a $ 400 Million Annual Budget but do not have a Full Time Tax Assessor. In fact, Norwalk has not had a Tax Assessor for close to a year now. Some may argue Norwalk hasn’t had a Qualified Tax Assessor in a couple of years. If anyone reading this thinks that’s impossible — It’s not. One would think it’s an important job to fill, but obviously there are some in City Hall that think differently.

    2) After studying the revaluation quite closely, I would argue that at least one of the districts noted above is actually discounted in the 2023 revaluation. That means we all pay more while these wealthy properties are discounted by 20-40% or more. In my opinion that’s not fair. I would challenge a Middle School Math Teacher to have her students do a statistical analysis of the revaluation vs sales prices and let us know…. Yes, it really is that simple.

    3) If the Council members think this budget is tough, next year will be even more painful. Yes, the DC “Fun” money is drying up. By the way, it should be pointed out that the “Fun” money from Washington has been borrowed . Our school age children will be paying those bills down the road. Not sure why our elected officials have mentioned that?
     

  5. Bryan Meek

    Certainly we should be buying more and more $1350 garbage cans and throwing taxpayer funded holiday parties for out of town visitors. All this ECD is really driving up businesses (down 13% in the reval), so let the good times roll. Let’s get another EV to keep the one collecting dust that doesn’t work company. TO infinity and beyond!

  6. Tysen Canevari

    The Parks department has requested $800,000 to make them less effective by purchasing electric blowers that are good for nothing. Good job Ordinance committee. You only cost the city taxpayers more money by having such a useless rule that residents and companies will not follow. When it comes to common sense Lisa Shanahan and most of her crew dont have it. #RowaytonRule

  7. David Lee

    We are told we need to build more apartments so that people move here to fill jobs. So they built a lot of apartments.

    But offices are vacant and the value of commercial properties are hurting, so residential owners have to pay a lot more taxes for government services because it’s a larger population with no extra help from office buildings.

    So where are the jobs? Are they in Norwalk? Since more demand for housing means property values go up. Does the demand for office workers mean commercial values go up? Or are all the jobs outside of Norwalk? Long time residents are paying the price for new development and density and higher taxes are causing hardships for people who are forced to move out. For what? why is Norwalk spending money on infrastructure to build workforce apartments when the office properties are not contributing anything extra and are causing residents who lived a long time in Norwalk a problem. This year proves that even with all the apartments and big Norwalk mall the residents get stuck with the bill while the developers got rich with free COVID bail out money and they build all over the place. It just is not fair to people on a fixed income who lived here a long time. Our options have become find somewhere else to live. What a shame they are letting this happen.

  8. Thomas Belmont

    A home in Greenwich worth 1.5 million pays $7k property tax per year.

    1. Adam Blank

      Your math is off. A $1.5M home in Greenwich pays roughly $12k in property tax per year. Of course, the average home price in Greenwich is even higher than that – it’s somewhere around $2.1M – meaning the average family in Greenwich pays $17k per year in property taxes – which is way more than the average Norwalk family pays in property taxes.

  9. Thomas Belmont

    Keep the peace, save your council seat, your assorted offices. Adjust the mil rate to equal property taxes 2023.

  10. Adam Kalunian

    If these numbers provided are accurate, I am deeply concerned that the residents are picking up the slack for the lack of commercial property tax. I understand the need for property tax, but a $2000 dollar increase? Residents are already hurting from the increase of population and traffic. Stop giving tax breaks to commercial / apartments and let them pay the bulk of taxes. Better yet, reduce taxes and learn to CUT unnecessary spending. Stop letting the middle class carry the heavy load of taxes for the whole city.

    1. Adam Blank

      Adam K. – Your suggestion can’t legally be accomplished by the City. The revaluation is not a “tax break to commercial/ apartments”. The State requires the City to value all properties (commercial, multifamily and single family) based upon their current fair market value (i.e. what they would sell for today). Residential property values spiked over the past 5 years while other commercial sectors lagged. As a result, the City is required to value the commercial properties with their current, lower, values in comparison to residential properties. I’m not aware of any authority that would allow the City to charge commercial property owners a different mill rate (tax rate) than residential properties. As a result, the tax burden is required to shift to single family property owners this cycle. It then becomes the City’s decision whether they want to cut services and spending to keep taxes for single family homeowners in the same ballpark as last year or whether they want to keep funding and services at a similar level and increase taxes on single family homeowners.

  11. stephen balazs

    Well said Adam Blank. I get that no one wants their taxes to go up but I would much rather be a homeowner who’s property has increased 30-50% over the past 5 years than a commercial property owner who’s witnessed a 30-50% decrease in value.

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