Senator Frantz: Governor’s Veto Impacts Stamford Homeowners and Residential Taxpayers [Stamford Advocate]

June 7, 2012

Article as it appeared in the Stamford Advocate on June 7, 2012

Malloy vetoes property revaluation delay
Pavia: ‘Disappointed,’ but says Stamford can finish assessments on time
By Kate King

STAMFORD — City officials saw their two-year quest to delay the 2012 property revaluation squashed just steps from the finish line Wednesday, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill that would grant Stamford and four other municipalities a one-year postponement.

The governor returned the legislation, which squeaked through the General Assembly in the final days of the 2012 legislative session, to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill with a two-page message explaining his veto. Malloy said he did not see a compelling reason to grant the revaluation delay for only five municipalities, especially Windham, which has not performed one since 2005.

“I believe that delaying a regularly scheduled revaluation for just these communities, and not for other communities that are similarly situated, is unfair,” his veto message said.

“Regardless, delaying a revaluation at this time might exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the problems that Connecticut communities face in these uncertain economic times.”

Mayor Michael Pavia said he was “disappointed” by the governor’s veto. Stamford is three-fifths finished with its revaluation work, however, and will have no trouble completing the laborious property assessment before the October deadline, he said.

“All we were asking for was an option to consider triggering revaluation in the period of time that is most representative of the economic condition,” Pavia said.

“I’ve been in real estate most of my life, and I understand the fluctuations and I understand how trying to value properties within a very confined period of time can have misleading results.”

State Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, who represents parts of Stamford and Greenwich, called the governor’s veto “hypocritical,” because several Connecticut municipalities were granted a last-minute reprieve in 2011.

“(Stamford) is one of the great economic development generators for the state of Connecticut,” Frantz said. “Given the economic circumstances that we’ve faced for the past four years, you’re going to have displacements in the market value of residential versus commercial properties. It appears that the governor has come down against the homeowner and the residential taxpayer in his own city of Stamford.”

Frantz said overriding Malloy’s veto would be difficult, but said he expects to discuss it at an upcoming veto session. If the governor vetoes a piece of legislation when the General Assembly is not in session, the secretary of the state calls a special session to consider the veto and whether to override it.

“The jury is still out on what the odds are of having an override,” Frantz said. “However, typically it’s a tall order to override a governor’s veto, generally speaking, if for not any other reason than for political purposes.”

State Rep. Gerry Fox, D-Stamford, who represents Shippan, said he had been optimistic Malloy would sign the bill granting the delay. But former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell also vetoed property revaluation postponement bills applying to a small number of municipalities, he said.

“It’s not just the governor; there’s others who are in the Legislature and in the administration and have concerns about the policies of delaying revaluations for specific towns,” he said.

Fox said a statement in the veto message may provide an avenue to pursue for delaying the revaluation.

“Had this bill simply given all municipalities the option of a one year delay in revaluations … I might be more predisposed to sign it,” Malloy’s message said. “However, 38 municipalities are mandated to perform revaluations this year, but this bill extends the time period to do so for only five. I find there is no compelling reason for making a special exception for these five municipalities, as opposed to the others which are facing the same challenges.”

Fox said he will speak with members of Stamford’s state delegation as well as representatives from other municipalities affected by the veto to see if another, more expansive revaluation delay is possible.

“We’ll see where we can go,” he said. “If all towns were treated the same, that may be a way to get Stamford’s through.”

Even if the state awards Stamford a one-year postponement, it is up to local officials to decide whether to grant the mayor’s request for a delay. On Wednesday, Board of Finance Chairman Tim Abbazia said he has always opposed postponements and thinks revaluations should be completed more often, preferably every three to five years.

“The best thing to do is do the revaluation as scheduled and once it’s done, you certainly have the option of phasing it in,” Abbazia said. “Of course it costs money, but there’s ways to do these revaluations more efficiently and more cost-effectively. The purpose of the revaluation is to make things more accurate and fair.”

Board of Finance member David Martin, who authored two Stamford revaluation phase-ins while serving on the Board of Representatives, said pushing back the property assessment isn’t good for the local economy and compounds the tax bump that inevitability accompanies revaluations.

“If you don’t do this revaluation and you go down 20 years later, then what’s happened is your local businesses … those people are paying extraordinarily high real estate taxes,” Martin said. “And they tend to move out. Over time it builds up and fundamentally begins to damage the local economy because businesses don’t want to move into that environment.”

Martin estimated Stamford’s revaluation could boost residential property tax bills by 10 to 20 percent.

“This is going to lead to some very difficult decisions for mayors and first selectmen and Mayor Pavia in the city of Stamford,” Martin said. “There are going to be tough decisions that are going to have to be made, and they’re going to be unpopular ones.

“There’s a revaluation coming and I think that the impact on the people in Stamford is going to be substantial. Towns typically cannot make the cuts required to offset this. The way to fix is it you’ve got to make your economy more vibrant.”

State law requires municipalities to conduct property revaluations every five years. Stamford residents will see the 2012 property revaluation reflected in their June 2013 tax bills.