What would the taxpayer impact of a mosque suit trial look like?

NORWALK, Conn. – Throughout the discussion of the mosque settlement, the argument has centered on the potential cost to the taxpayers of taking the suit against the city by the Al Madany Islamic Center to trial.

Attorney Joseph Williams of the city’s legal team, a partner with Shipman & Goodwin LLC of Hartford, has given an estimated range from $4 million should the city win at trial to as much as $15 million should Norwalk lose and have to pay Al Madany’s legal team, which is reportedly working pro bono is they lose.

What has not been discussed is what those figures look like for the taxpayers.

We asked Norwalk Director of Finance Tom Hamilton, and he responded with the mill rate impact and tax impact on the average single-family homeowner in Norwalk that would come from adding $4 million and $15 million to the city budget.

“Adding $4.0 million to $15.0 million would add to the existing tax burden on Norwalk taxpayers, and require us to increase property taxes,” he wrote. “I cannot say definitely how the city might respond to this hypothetical situation. However, if the city were to issue a judgment bond, I have provide you with the estimated annual debt service impact, assuming a serial bond issued with a ten-year maturity. Please note: I am not familiar with the laws governing the use of judgment bonds in Connecticut because I have never had the occasion to consider using one. I am not even certain that we would be permitted to issue a judgment bond, but in the event of a $15.0 million loss it is something that we would certainly need to explore.”

Hamilton asked Office of Management & Budgets Director Bob Barron to calculate the actual costs:

  • $4.0 million of expenses added to the current FY 2014-15 budget would increase the mill rate by .3445 or an additional $124.54 of taxes on the $361,489 average assessed single family home
  • $15.0 million of expenses added to the current FY 2014-15 budget would increase the mill rate by 1.2919 or an additional $467.01 of taxes on the $361,489 average assessed single family home
  • A $15.0 million bond issued at our August 2014 TIC of 2.437208% would generate an annual debt service payment of $1,708,325.16 in each of 10 years or the $15.0 million principal and an additional $2.1 million in interest over the life of the bonds

The figures are based on the low and high end of the estimate of the legal cost of a full trial. They also do not take into consideration potential cuts in city and school services, which could be combined with a rate hike.

The above increases do not account for the usual built-in budget increases that come with mandated increases in union contracts, pensions, energy and insurance costs.


39 responses to “What would the taxpayer impact of a mosque suit trial look like?”

  1. anon

    The budget this year was flat except for about $8 million in mandated employee raises, pensions and benefits, a little to increase in cost of goods. No new stuff for Norwalk taxpayers unless police cars count. In spite of same old same old, taxes increased for 3 of the 5 districts, West Norwalk included.
    Is the message here, Norwalk can’t afford to protect its neighborhood and property owners if not convenient or affordable.
    Every neighborhood better lawyer-up on their own because the City of Norwalk doesn’t have your back.

  2. MTP

    a small pittance to pay to prevent precedent and ensure a mosque, church, meeting hall or other unacceptably large inappropriate structure wasn’t built in my neighborhood.

    the scare tactics on the heel of the vote are not flattering to say the least

  3. One and Done

    Is that a one time charge? Or would we need to spend this every year? What about the $10,000 plus drop in home values that every resident will suffer if Norwalk capitulates to this bogus claim of discrimination? How does Hamilton propose we get that back?
    How can the Mosque’s legal team be considered to be working pro bono if they are intent on suing the city for damages that they will recover. I’m no lawyer, but I believe the term is contingency and not pro bono. Which begs the question, who is actually paying them right now?

    1. Mark Chapman


      The first two scenarios are a one-time charge. The bond would be spread out over 10 years in this scenario, with the average homeowner feeling what looks to be an impact of substantially less than $100 a year. These are facts based on the estimated legal costs.

      The $10,000 “loss” is a subjective figure and is assuming the lone reason for any current drop is the potential mosque and not the economy, the potential added traffic from the driving range, the schools, the infrastructure, the tone of the civic discourse or other factors.

  4. Lisa Thomson

    Just fix the code – especially the Floor Area Ratio. Grandstanding by local politicians for litigation (many of whom are lawyers) instead of governing and fixing the code and processes of P&Z amounts to a derelection of public service and is turning this city into a three ring circus.

  5. John Hamlin

    @Lisa Thomson — you are absolutely right. No point in litigating every loser of a case if we don’t fix the regs and the ordinances — but more important, Norwalk needs a change in approach when it comes to property protections and to planning and zoning — we need to protect property owners and the community from the abuses of individual property owners — and we need to have a sensible plan for developing the city. It’s time to stop making the whims of the entrenched interests and the fears of everyone scared of any sort of change our only priorities.

  6. LWitherspoon

    How much of a tax hike would be required to pay the debt service and interest on a $15 million judgement bond?
    My crude estimate is that yearly taxes would be higher by about $60 on a $361,000 home.

  7. One and Done

    Is it that subjective Mark? Real property values are flat in Norwalk but have been growing in surrounding communities. Issues like this, BJs, Poko, etc… are having a dampening effect on our property values and perhaps that is a subjective statement.
    Maybe I should be looking for other parameters like the weather in Darien vs Norwalk? Maybe examples of Dearborn, MiI and Murfreesboro, TN and other large regional mosques drain on local property values are subjective? Unfortunately we probably won’t know for sure until it is too late. You can censure and keep things as politically correct as you want, but you can’t hide facts in plain sight.

    1. Mark Chapman


      There is politically correct, then there is flat out racism and invasion of someone’s personal privacy. The last two are not permitted, and I apologize if that offends you. You can post that stuff over at our former employer’s site. They don’t seem to care. We have published standards of decency that the overwhelming majority of our readers live by with no problem. If you cannot make your point without crossing the line, that is not our problem.

      We have not had a chance to do the reporting yet on property values in West Norwalk vs. the rest of the city, but the recent revaluation, where several areas of the city saw their values drop, could be an indicator. The reasons? That would take tens of thousands of dollars and an in-depth survey. I agree with you about the issues of the moque, BJ’s, POKO, etc. They raise red flags. And it is a shame the mayor, who has been in office for less than a year, has not been able to fix what has been going on for several years — maybe decades — under other mayors.

      I urge readers to Google the Murfeesboro and Dearborn situations. And, in doing so, try to avoid the overwhelming preponderance of Islamophobic sites and get to the facts, if you can. The ‘net is dripping with toxic ooze.

  8. Betsy Wrenn

    Let’s roll! There seems to be no argument that RLUPIA is an unjust law, written by religion lobbyists, and it should be repealed. I’d rather the City spend money on something constructive like standing up for hardworking homeowners than blowing millions on, say, a commercial driving range.

  9. Jeff

    How about a proforma on lost property values? After all, the residential tax base only accounts for 80% that funds the city. . . Seams like a small price to pay and a good risk reward for home owners (with an added benefit of preserving the the value of our Grand List and deterring others from pursuing similar courses of action). I say see you in court and have Marci go back to her prior stance that the case is winnable.

  10. Tim D

    For $500.00 Count me in! I’ve wagered more on Giants and lost!

  11. Bruce Kimmel

    Please examine the research on the impact of religious institutions on residential property values. It is extremely complex, related to factors such as distance from church and age of church. Bottom line is that in many instances, values increase. Plus, some of the research indicates that the larger the structure, the greater the increase in value. It is not nearly as simplistic as people are suggesting.

  12. One and Done

    Islamophobia shouldn’t be concerned with people’s basic understanding of facts and positions as they are explicitly put forth. Glossing over these positions is political correctness run amok.
    There’s the Pope, there’s Ghandi, and then there is another like the supreme leader of Persia, who openly advocates for the destruction of Israel, Amercia, western society, that it is ok to beat disobedient wives, and put homosexuals to death. We are very tolerant to these views here never requiring that members of a certain community denounce those positions, perhaps out of political correctness….and then they turn around and accuse us of discrimination when common sense says there is none. It is tough for some to swallow Mark and many are feeling bullied by the Mosque. (Hope this post doesn’t offend your sensibilities. I can understand how my last one may have crossed that line and I apologize for that.)

    1. Mark Chapman


      I did not want to address that previous one online for reasons I think you understand. None of anyone’s business.

      As for the rest, I have heard many Muslim communities denounce the kind of behavior you write about, but you won’t here about it in the “You won’t read these stories in the lamestream media” blogs. There are fanatics in every religion. Why did not all Catholic diocese leaders come out and condemn violence, including murder, against abortion providers? For that matter, why do those leaders not condemn the harassment of women seeking a legal treatment? Why have we not heard from people who seem to believe that all Muslims are evil people bent on conversion or destruction of non-believers condemning the alleged Christian fanatics, like the Westboro Baptist Church, the people who attack members of the LGBT community in the name of their religion, and those wonderful congressmen who have gone to Africa to encourage Uganda’s Draconian and murderous laws against gays? They point to the Bible for their inspiration and for their defense.

      You are aware the Klan claims to be a Christian organization, right?

      People commit atrocities every day in the name of whatever god they worship, but, because of 9/11, many in this country have decided that “those people” are all alike. I grew up listening to people talk like that about the black community; I grew up hearing people cast all gay men as pedophiles; I recall my history lessons about World War II and, well, I won’t go there, because that analogy has been used and abused to the point of being meaningless.

      And it is this fear mongering that creates a climate that gives the courts reason to find that discrimination is in play.

  13. Amanda

    The people are speaking, Bruce. Listen to them. Thanks for letting us know how you’re voting tonight.

  14. Very Concerned

    Norwalk residents do not discriminate.

    This is not based on discrimination. This is based on the well being of the residential area and safety for all residents, including students who walk to school.

    There should be no mosque at this location. Zoning laws cannot allow this. How can we lose a lawsuit based on the facts that this is not a safe place for a mosque/church/temple etc.

    Can we build a Wendy’s at the end of Chipping Lane or the end of Stepping Stone Road? I don’t think so.

  15. srb1228

    If the overwhelming likelihood is the City will lose the case then standing up for it is of no quixotic and an irresponsible waste of money. The Council shouldn’t be betting but using their fiduciary judgment, The reason property values have stayed static in Norwalk while risen in neighboring areas is largely the perception of the school district. Higher income family’s don’t want to take the risk that there child will be less educated than others. There are no do-overs in parenting. Sadly, this leads to a vicious circle of better educated, higher income flight. The same issues existed 30 years ago but the level of anxiety concerning schooling has soared to stratospheric levels, regardless of the fact that engaged parents who positively reinforce learning have successful children (by and large) regardless of where the child goes to school. My 2 cents

  16. srb1228

    meant to say… City will lose the case then standing up for it is quixotic and an irresponsible waste of $

  17. One and Done

    Ok Bruce. I’m simple, but let me get this straight. Hey let’s go buy the house next door to 127 Fillow, but let’s pay more than what it’s worth. That will happen any day now, right Bruce?

  18. MTP

    we’re supposed to believe that the mosque will INCREASE the home values in the area? Good god above. Unbelievable. How do these people get elected? (I can assure you it wasn’t – AND WONT BE from my vote)

  19. Carol

    more scare tactics-gladly pay the increase and help the Mosque find a more suitable site.
    It is two large for the property on a dangerous road,please consider voting it down tonight,

  20. anon

    @Kimmel, this isn’t about the impact of religious institutions on residential property values.

    What good is a traffic study commissioned by Al Madany which deliberately omits information that ignores the obvious?
    Al Madany will be the largest mosque in the entire State. Stamford’s mosque has more families, is 3 times smaller. Greenwich’s synagogue, in litagatiaon, has 150 families and is 2 times smaller. St Matthews’s 2400 families have 16 square feet each. Al Madany’s 100 families have 218 square feet each. To put it in perspective, 16 square feet is the size of a coat closet; 218 square feet is the size of a decent studio apartment in New York City.
    Is this planned to be a regional destination? Is membership expected to balloon, and how?
    Unless the Al Madany explains the disconnect between the sheer size of their mosque vs. their membership and stated intentions, the traffic study looks a lot more like propaganda than truth.
    And, speaking of $millions, who is liable, and who pays to ‘fix things’ if the Al Madany traffic study proves to be totally inadequate based on their obviously deficient assumptions? Taxpayers?

  21. piberman

    Maybe NON could ask City leaders if there’s been an informal discussion with the Mosque community on securing a larger, more suitable location that would be a win win for everyone (with suitable financial arrangements for securing a different property) rather than a continued legal confrontation ? And if the lawyers insist on “tight lips” might there not be an informal gathering of concerned citizens willing to find a sensible solution ? Where is it written that the only “solution” is the one negotiated by the attorneys ? And angry taxpayers ? In the “old days” real City leaders would never have lead such a disturbing situation develop. Talking about paying taxes for supporting litigation points us in the wrong direction.

    1. Mark Chapman


      We were told that no alternative has been discussed . The mayor has said that, regardless of the settlement, it is something that could be exploreD.

  22. Amanda

    Bruce’s example also cites a church. Not a mosque. This mosque allegedly serves 100 families in town. How is that going to increase our property values?

  23. Adam Blank

    This story omits an important detail. If the City loses, it not only incurs a lot of costs but the mosque gets built as proposed by the applicant, potentially without any restrictions. If the City wins, it costs a lot of money and the mosque re-applies with a reduced version similar to what the ZC voted on last week which application will either be approved by ZC or be denied creating a new RLUIPA claim which will be stronger than the current one.

  24. Amanda

    From what I understand the city has offered to find a more suitable lot. Al Madany will not agree to discussions of it at this point. I have heard this from 2 sources and expect it will be addressed tonight.

  25. Dennis DiManis

    Why would property taxes need to rise? How about reducing bloated municipal employee salaries instead?

  26. Jen

    I already pay an astronomical amount, a few hundred more won’t make a difference.

    Maybe the city’s plan is to let this pass just to end the lawsuit and then try to work out a different site. The congregation doesn’t have the money to build yet anyway.

  27. Non Partisan Voter

    @piberman: “In the “old days” real City leaders would never have lead such a disturbing situation develop.” You mean Frank “BJ’s” Zullo or “run Norwalk into the ground” Esposito? Those were “real” leaders? Seriously?

    I don’t want to pay anymore taxes. It should all be on West Norwalk – every single dime. Good think we have taxing districts.

  28. David

    Hey, if there’s $15 million floating around that no one minds paying in their taxes, let’s put it into public schools – the biggest driver of house prices in a town or city. At least we’d have something to show for it at the end of the day.

  29. Suzanne

    I believe comments referencing the Muslim people, the Koran and Islam in a negative light is completely detrimental to the City’s case. Those who make such comments should take heed: they could assist Al Madany in proving a case for discrimination that would adversely affect the entire City. So, if anyone on any thread must have these feelings or biases, for the City’s sake, keep it to yourselves. You are hurting the relationship between the City and Al-Madany that I believe still has a chance of coming to some sort of positive resolution. Otherwise, your comments condemn us to one resolution only: Al-Madany, based on discrimination against their practice of religion, will build that mosque, too big a structure for the land, in the wrong place and at a dangerous intersection for which they have offered minimal remediation.

  30. Audrey Cozzartin

    This entire issue is ridiculous. Why am I living in Norwalk? I must be crazy.

  31. Very Concerned

    It appears that the winners of this case are the lawyers.

    Find a suitable location for the mosque and call it a day.

  32. One and Done

    Mark, you are citing rogue elements. I cited the top of the house. The Pope has made his positions pretty clear and so has the supreme leader of Persia. If the Pope today were to start holy wars and call for extermination of entire countries, people wouldn’t start building churches everywhere they weren’t welcome. That’s the factual difference whether you like it or not.

    1. Mark Chapman


      The supreme leader if Persia is the leader if Iran, not Islam. There is no pope equivalent for Islam. You are citing one political leader who derives his power from his religious leadership of a nation with which we have a hostile relationship.

  33. One and Done

    @Suzanne. Nothing you or I do or say here has any impact on any proceeding. You can, but I’m not going to delude myself to that notion. You don’t need to go to law school to understand what hearsay is as opposed to libel and slander.

  34. Suzanne

    One and Done, I don’t know what the heck you are talking about. You don’t like Muslims? You don’t like Islam? I guess that makes you one of many, nothing special.
    Last time I looked, however, the UNITED STATES and not religious leaders, necessarily, promoted tolerance and acceptance of everyone and, for that, I would suggest you re-read the statement at the Statue of Liberty. Or that thing called the “Pledge of Allegiance” which, I am sure, you said at least one point in your life at school or in the Boy Scouts or something, “…with liberty and justice for ALL.”
    So what? You say prejudicial things and believe in prejudiced principles. That makes you like others who are just like you – so what. Nothing special.
    There are many more who do not believe like you. Who believe in community and look for the highest good. No religious leaders involved. No Nation of Islam. No Pope. Just good people.

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