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360 State Fights Eye-Popping Assessment

by Melissa Bailey | Sep 28, 2011 7:56 am

(39) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Business/ Economic Development, City Hall

Melissa Bailey Photo Remember when city officials lured a developer to build Connecticut’s largest apartment tower downtown? Now they’ve quietly quadrupled the project’s eventual tax bill—and the resulting dispute has landed in court.

The dispute not only reflects a breach in the relationship between City Hall and backers of a showpiece project at the heart of a downtown revival.

If the legal challenge’s claims are true—that the city with no basis suddenly jacked up the assessment of a project wildly beyond officials’ own original public projections—then the matter would call into question a central plank of Mayor John DeStefano’s reelection campaign: That he has increased New Haven’s grand list of taxable property by $149 million amid a recession. 360 State’s disputed assessment could account for two-thirds of that gain. As much as $100 million could prove bogus—or at least far more than city officials projected it to be when they originally touted the project.

360 State opened in 2010 with 500 apartments and a parking garage. A food co-op is set to open in October on the ground floor. The building is both financed and owned by Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT), a union pension fund. As part of a deal to convince architect/ developer Bruce Becker to proceed with the 32-story tower, the city agreed to phase in real estate taxes on the property over seven years.

The latest assessment shows MEPT will have to pay about $5.7 million in taxes when the deferral is over—four times the amount the city originally estimated when it was courting Becker to town. That original estimate formed the financial basis upon which MEPT committed to the project and anticipated it could meet its financing costs. (Because of the tax deferral program, MEPT doesn’t have to pay that full bill for another five years; its tax bill this year is less than $100,000.)

Thomas MacMillan File Photo When it’s fully phased in, the unexpected tax bill would devastate the project’s cash flow, from a net positive $248,000 to a net negative $4.6 million per year, according to 360 State’s legal counsel.

With that danger looming, MEPT is now fighting the assessment in state Superior Court.

City Hall’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden, Tuesday defended tax assessor Bill O’Brien. He said O’Brien has a legal obligation to assess the property according to state law—not according to any prediction that might have been made before the building was built.

Documents prepared by the city’s Office of Economic Development estimated the city would receive $1.4 million in taxes from the property once the taxes were fully phased in.

The city estimated the property would bring in $1,399,656 once the taxes are phased in, rising to $1,637,571 in another five years, according to responses Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy prepared to questions by aldermen and released to the public in July 2007.

Based in part on that understanding, the pension fund agreed to the deal, and Becker set to work building on a vacant lot on the grave of the former Shartenberg department store.

The latest grand list of taxable properties shows a stark contrast with Murphy’s prediction in 2007.

When Mayor DeStefano released the latest grand list in February, MEPT emerged as the city’s fourth-highest taxpayer. 360 State added $130 million in taxable property to the grand list, according to the list. DeStefano, who was running for a record 10th term in office, proclaimed New Haven had added $149 million to the grand list, the largest growth across the state.

The growth would have been closer to $50 million if the city had stuck with an assessment in line with the projections it offered in 2007 based on an internal calculation by its assessor’s office.

After the sticker shock of its new assessments, MEPT took the case before the Board of Assessment Appeals.

The board wasn’t legally required to hold a hearing because of how high the assessment was. Assessments of over $1 million can be directed straight to state court, according to board member Jeff Granoff.

But the owners asked for a hearing and the board complied, he said.

The board ended up denying the appeal, Granoff said: “They presented their evidence, we evaluated it and looked at it, and we felt it would be denied.” He declined to comment further on the reasons behind the denial.

MEPT then took the battle to Connecticut Superior Court in Meriden, where the case is now pending. MEPT filed two suits against the city on June 15, claiming it had suffered from “manifestly excessive, disproportionate and discriminatory” property assessments.

The suits were filed by two limited liability corporations affiliated with MEPT: MEPT Chapel Street LLC, which owns the residential portion of 360 State, and MEPT Chapel Street QALICB LLC, which owns the parking garage and commercial space.

Records show the city pegged 70 percent of the assessed values at: $114,556,820 for the residential component; $3,038,840 for the commercial part; and $12,455,660 for the parking garage. That’s a total of $130,051,320.

Given the current tax rate of 43.9 mills, taxes on the property compute to $5,709,252 once fully phased in—four times as much as the city estimated in 2007.

The suits charge the assessor “overvalued and over-assessed” the residential and commercial properties in the latest grand list.

The assessments were so out of whack they “could not have been arrived at except by disregarding the provisions of the statutes” governing tax assessments, the suits charge.

Bruce Becker declined to comment for this story.

In two responses filed in court, a city-hired law firm, Halloran & Sage LLP, denied the assessments were unfair.

So why did the property assessment quadruple?

Press Release Math

City Assessor Bill O’Brien offered an explanation Tuesday.

He said the city has three main ways to determine the value of real estate: The cost to build, comparable sales, and the income coming into the building.

For example, O’Brien said, the value of a project should be more than the cost of building it. To determine a project’s cost, O’Brien said, the city looks not only at building permits but also at what developers say in public.

In the case of 360 State, O’Brien pointed out, “there were news press releases” and statements in the media about the cost of the building.

In its tax deferral agreement with the city, MEPT declared it expected to spend $109 million to build the project. In 2010, stories in the Independent and the New York Times pegged the project cost at $190 million—but that figure included grants for components like “green” fuel cell.

O’Brien declined to give a specific explanation of why the assessment was so high.

He did say that income to the rental properties is “very relevant.”

And he offered this reflection: “In general, it’s not unusual for anyone seeking a building permit” to “underestimate” the cost of the building prior to constructing it.

Sky-High Compared To Competitors

O’Brien was also asked why the assessment appears to be higher than that of some other residential buildings around town.

For example, the Eli luxury apartments on Church Street were assessed at $60.38 per square foot. The residential portion of 360 State was assessed at more than four times that rate—$256.67 per square foot.

“Making those kinds of comparisons is not fair,” O’Brien replied: The Eli was a retrofitted rehabilitation of a 1938 building, he said. By contrast, 360 State is brand new.

“I’m not too sure there are many brand new” residential buildings to which to compare 360 State, O’Brien said. 360 State has “no deterioration” and “no economic obsolescence” due to a neighborhood going downhill, he said.

“It is certainly unique” in that it’s “new, modern and contemporary,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien added that the city may assess new buildings at any point during the year to update their value as they are constructed.

360 State has another difference from buildings like the Eli—it includes below-market public-housing apartments.

Earlier Document Unavailable

The projected tax revenue provided by the city in 2007 was based on an initial assessment compiled by O’Brien’s office. That assessment was not available as of press time.

Despite that working assessment, the tax deferral deal the city struck with 360 State developers never included any guarantee of what the future assessment would be, city Corporation Counsel Bolden noted in an emailed statement. The estimates cited by Murphy were not part of the legal documents the parties signed.

“Aside from the initial improvement period, the agreement does not guarantee that the property will be assessed at a specific number,” Bolden wrote. “Instead, the agreement only addresses deferring the impact of any assessment increase.”

The tax deferral deal, signed in November 2008, states that the initial real estate assessment would start at $2 million, before the building is built. Then, when construction is done, the city assessor would make a new assessment of the property. The increase in value would be phased in as followed: The first year, in 2011, the total increase is deferred. Then the increased assessment will be phased in by 20 percent for another five years until it reaches 100 percent.

“The Assessor is required to follow state law in determining the assessed value of all property in the City, including 360 State, and the tax deferral agreement does not say anything different,” Bolden wrote.  “In fact, the agreement expressly requires compliance with the applicable state law.  

Bolden added that “the City declines to engage in a lengthy public exchange on a matter currently before the courts.”

O’Brien: “If We Don’t Like You…”

360 State developer Becker posed some questions to O’Brien Tuesday morning, when the assessor appeared before a dozen businesspeople and city officials in a question-and-answer session hosted at City Hall by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Becker didn’t bring up 360 State’s case. He did ask O’Brien to talk about how the city deals with appeals and deferments.

O’Brien estimated the city has 27,500 real estate parcels, including those that are tax-exempt, as well as 85,000 taxable motor vehicles and 4,400 personal property accounts. Real estate gets revalued every five years; the last reval came in 2006.

Historically, O’Brien said, the Board of Assessment Appeals gets 600 appeals each reval cycle, 200-300 of which end up in court.

O’Brien said there was a spike in appeals last year, which he attributed to tough economic times. His critics—including aldermen who held hearings that led to promised reforms in O’Brien’s office and the tax appeals process—claimed his office engaged in bizarrely out-of-whack commercial assessments across town based on “drive-by” looks.

How long does an average appeals case take to be resolved in Superior Court? Becker asked O’Brien.

That depends on “if we like you,” quipped the assessor.

“If we like you,” the case will go quickly, O’Brien responded.

“If we don’t like you, we can drag it out for 10 years.”

O’Brien quickly added that he was kidding. He said of the cases that end up in court, 40 percent get withdrawn due to a settlement and about 30 percent go to trial.

O’Brien said the average trial takes two to three days. The city likes to solve appeals promptly: “We like to clear the decks.”

If 360 State’s case isn’t settled before trial, the court will determine whether the owners suffered “manifest” discrimination—and whether DeStefano’s claims of robust grand list growth hold up to cross-examination.

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posted by: anon on September 28, 2011  8:19am

“the largest growth across the state.”

Is this actually documented somewhere in public, or is it just that our media accepts a constantly repeated claim as the truth?

posted by: anon on September 28, 2011  8:23am

O’Brien:

If income is relevant (which makes sense, as income determines value), then why is the Eli assessed at 1/4 the rate per square foot?  The apartments at the Eli rent out for about the same price as the apartments at 360 State.

posted by: streever on September 28, 2011  9:08am

Did anyone not see something like this coming?

The Mayor is focused to the exclusion of all else on large, headline grabbing moves.

Remember when Resident ID was going to get bank accounts for undocumented immigrants?

I feel badly for Becker that he was suckered in by the Mayor’s usual over-promise, under-deliver spiel.

Makes the whole kerfuffle with Ideat Village kind of ironic, doesn’t it? A city that is so desperate to appease anyone with money that it rolled on the back to try to prevent a New Haven festival from occurring turns around and slaps the same moneyed developer with an assessment totally out of whack from the initial projections.

posted by: david on September 28, 2011  10:11am

A wonderful message to any other would be developers interested in New Haven.

posted by: JAK on September 28, 2011  10:15am

“If we like you”.

This is no joke. 

Serious question:  Has this developer given any money to the Destefano campaign?  I’ll bet not which means he is not on the “like” list.

posted by: Vinny G on September 28, 2011  10:22am

What happened?  Becker forget to make a campaign contribution to Johny.

posted by: assessor on September 28, 2011  10:26am

There is a reason O’Brien isn’t in Bridgeport anymore.  I just want to know why he ended up in New Haven?

As a resident I am excited there are people investing in our city to relieve residents of our excessive tax burden but O’Brien’s tactics have, historically, been shady and on the edge of the law when he can get away with it….

I would imagine that there is probably a happy medium that can be reached and I hope it happens before the two LLCs claim bankruptcy and screw the city.  This is why these should have been condominiums from the starts and not rentals.

posted by: streever on September 28, 2011  10:39am

To Assessor:
I asked a city hall employee that. They told me they couldn’t find anyone else. I think the unspoken quality they couldn’t find elsewhere was “anyone else who would donate to the Mayor and do as they are told”.

The Mayor loves hiring people with little experience or who are compromised at their former jobs. Kingmaker! Classic insecurity.

posted by: East Rock Res on September 28, 2011  10:47am

Why would anyone else want to invest in New Haven after reading this?  I can’t believe I’m actually siding with the developer on this but if the city makes promises to lure development into town, then it seems fair to honor those, no?

posted by: meridenite on September 28, 2011  11:02am

Interesting comment by the assessor, will this be brought up in the trial, also the full value based on the 70% assessed value is aprox 164 million for the 500 apartments or 328,000 per WOW!!!!

posted by: Bill O'Brien on September 28, 2011  11:34am

With respect to the property at 360 State Street, the Independent could have easily learned much of the detail relating to cost and value by simply utilizing the Internet to extract the rather voluminous cost data and claims of this project.  There exists more than ample public information by the developer and his associates, both before and during construction, clearly indicating cost estimates ranging from $140.0 to $200 million.

Here is some important data related to this project: (1) the developers’ 2006 RFP submittal lists costs at $150.0 million; (2) the developers 2007 budget submittal indicates cost of $189 million; (3) a July 2008 submittal indicates costs of $186.5 million; (4) the developers’ May 2008 application to the State of CT DECD lists cost at $164.5 million; (5) the developers’ July 2008 project status indicates cost at $160.0 million; (6) the developers cite a value of $180 million to the New England Real Estate Journal December 2008; and (7) April 2009 developers submittal indicates partial, incomplete costs of $140.0 million

The preceding are merely summaries of data provided by the developer, not the Assessor.  In actually valuing the complex, the traditional methods of cost, market and income analysis are considered prior to any reconciled final valuation. It must also be pointed out that values for the 2010 Grand List reflect trend back to 10-1-06 revaluation as required by law, and applicable phase-in. This particular project is presently subject to the deferral, so the legal action is a pre-emptive action taken to enhance future cash flows.  The implication that the actual tax bill has quadrupled is untrue; the first years of the deferral the project is taxed on the land value, and structure value is subsequently phased in over a five-year period.

It is not the individual developer who is being oppressed here; it is the balance of the good citizens of New Haven who would be subsidizing this developer, if the various claims put forth publicly are accepted.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 28, 2011  11:48am

This is about taxpayer abuse. Once again, you have O’Brien with DeStefano’s blessing, using secret valuation methods to figure out an assessment and then without discussion or warning, dropping the big bomb on the taxpayer. From small businesses to ten cent liens to outrageous valuations, and towing and more, it’s just abusive.

As for DeStefano - this is just the latest example of how he operates. “If he likes you…” is operative. Maybe Becker can claim he’s a railroad - more likely, he will claim he was railroaded. More importantly, I’d like to know how DeStefano sleeps at night knowing that fake claims of value are the underpinnings of his reelection claim.

Oh, and I guess the fire fighter union and building trade unions comprised mostly of those out of town employees - will need to re-visit their endorsement of DeStefano. Grand list growth was one of their big selling points. Ricci: Can you say “oops?”

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 28, 2011  12:08pm

Wow!  That averages out to almost 11.5k in taxes per apartment unit per year.  I hope that fuel cell delivers some real savings.

posted by: anon on September 28, 2011  12:18pm

What the fair tax rate for 360 is is unclear to me. But Mr. Becker’s use of the Eli as a comparable doesn’t work. Unlike the Eli, 360 State has a parking garage, a pool, many amenities for tenants & commercial space. It also has a hugely valuable fuel cell - albeit one that is strangled now because the DPUC won’t allow metering. Until the DPUC makes this viable, 360 State has a good argument to lower the assessment on the fuel cell’s value. But for the rest - remember all the public subsidies. Was it $14 million of the “affordable” units? One dollar for the land? And tax deferments. Fuel cell. Roadwork and traffic signals. All to enable this queer eye sore, which kicks everything around it in the nose. Both sides are right in saying that there isn’t a comparable property. Although the whole is greater than its parts, maybe the way to start is to look at the value of all the components in comparable properties, add them up, and estimate what the combination is worth.

posted by: assessor on September 28, 2011  12:47pm

@ “Bill Saunders”

I take it you must not own a home in New Haven because your calculation is pretty close to any single-family property in our city that is in nice shape (like this building), with garages, and other additions (like fireplaces and hardwood floors).

This is a CT issue.  Lawmakers at the state need to stop handing out welfare on the backs of homeowners in our state.  That is, after all, what we are all subsidizing….

posted by: Amy Meek on September 28, 2011  12:56pm

Hi David Streever,

In your comment, you ask, “Remember when Resident ID was going to get bank accounts for undocumented immigrants?”

I do remember that; in fact, the city has delivered on exactly that promise!  I’m surprised that you seem to be suggesting otherwise.

Anyone with an Elm City Resident ID can use it as primary ID to start a bank account at START Bank, the New Haven community development bank that was created through negotiations led by Mayor DeStefano.  (See http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/feds_ok_start_bank/ for one Independent article on the genesis of START Bank: “DeStefano at the time led the fight against the [NewAlliance] deal and ended up negotiating the deal with state regulators to provide the money for START.”)

This policy doesn’t just benefit undocumented immigrants who want to open bank accounts; it benefits anyone who has difficulty obtaining identification and access to banking & financial literacy resources. That includes my client population, individuals recently released from incarceration.  Access to proper ID is a huge barrier to reentry for individuals returning from incarceration; identification papers are frequently discarded or lost during a period of incarceration, even when the ID is in the possession of the correctional institution.  (A quick NPR story on the Reentry Initiative’s work to provide Elm City Resident IDs to formerly incarcerated persons is at http://www.yourpublicmedia.org/content/wnpr/elm-city-id-card-helping-former-inmates ). Individuals with criminal records also frequently find it difficult to open a bank account, which is why START Bank’s work to help those from lower-income neighborhoods open banking accounts is so important.

I think this is a tremendous accomplishment, so I just want to clarify for anyone reading that, yes, the Elm City Resident ID does help in opening a bank account for any New Haven resident who otherwise finds it difficult to obtain ID—that includes undocumented immigrants, and also many other types of people in need!

Amy Meek
Coordinator, City of New Haven’s Reentry Initiative
203-946-7658

posted by: streever on September 28, 2011  1:08pm

@Amy
I’m sorry if I was unclear!

My point is not that you can use a resident ID card, but that the program was announced as a way to help undocumented citizens obtain bank accounts.

It does not do this. I’m not sure if I’m misunderstanding you, or if you are misunderstanding me, but as of today at 1 pm, Start Bank still requires a physical social security card to open a bank account.

Is this a clarification of the clarification ;-)?

I’m not trying to knock the concept of the Resident ID program—but I am saying that it is a pretty silly notion that banks will accept customers who have no other ID or documentation. I think every thinking person knew that wasn’t going to happen without federal reform.

posted by: BIll Saunders on September 28, 2011  1:30pm

Assessor:

I have owned my home in New Haven for over twenty years.
My taxes are less than half of my previous calculated, per capita 360 State Street Apartment tax.

As you have probably guessed, I do not live in East Rock, though I do have a fireplace and hardwood floors. 

(Maybe I should just shut my yap.)

posted by: anon on September 28, 2011  1:51pm

Amy, I am interested in getting a Resident ID card. Is the information at http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/CSA/NewHavenResidents/ up to date?

posted by: Ora on September 28, 2011  1:51pm

Holy Smoly another mess! First, I feel no sympathy for the developer because permit fees were deferred and are worth several million. Taxes are deferred worth millions. Unions paid for the building worth millions. How much of the developers own money has been thrown in? and my guess is not much considering the expense of the whole enchilada.
Now as far as the fairness by this administration with the out of control taxation going on in this city,if I was the developer I would sue also (but I do not, I repeat I do not feel sorry for this developer).
Bill O’Brien is a ... shadow of the mayor.
And the last thing I want to say is “Mayor, once again you deceived (out right) lied to the developer and the citizens of New Haven. Paint any picture you want, but no one can trust you. So fed up with you and your immoral lies and up yours type of attitude toward everyone.

posted by: streever on September 28, 2011  2:23pm

@Anon
I think the information is out of date. It does not mention acceptance at START bank.

posted by: Downtowner on September 28, 2011  2:28pm

Fair is fair.

Fwiw, when Becker and City representatives came before the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team, BEFORE ground was even broken, the community was told by both parties that the ultimate property tax receipts from this project would be about $2.5 Million per year.

So I don’t know where that $1.4 Million figure comes from. (was it an estimate on a smaller project?)

Also I guess it should be pointed out that everyone who owns property in New Haven is paying about 2.5% annually on their property’s value in taxes. That’s a sad fact. So if you do the math, MEPT’s argument that their $150-$200 million development should be valued at $60-$70 million for tax purposes is rather ludicrous.

Finally, state law decries that all residential property be assessed at 70% of fair market value, with re-valuations done every five years. (btw, the next New Haven re-val is scheduled three days from now, on October 1st.) Rightfully the only thing MEPT should be challenging going forward is their valuation for tax purposes, which is yet to be determined!

So what is this pre-emptory lawsuit really about? Are we about to see an after-the-fact tax deal put in place for Bruce Becker’s development? It sure sounds that way.

PS—360 State did not get a negotiated property tax “deal”. Every new development receives the same standard 0%-20%-40%-60%-80%-100% property tax phase-in.

posted by: Assessor on September 28, 2011  2:55pm

At “Bill Saunders”:

LOL!  The assessor is probably peeking in your windows right now.  Good reason not to use your name on tax related commenting boards.

In interest of disclosure, I recently updated my home and did it honestly (with a permit); so, every time I update it I get an increase to my assessment.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 28, 2011  3:14pm

Amy Meek:

The genesis of the Elm City Resident Card was that it would allow people to open bank accounts; that it would make people safer because they wouldn’t be carrying as much cash, particularly the immigrant community and that it wouldn’t cost city taxpayers anything.

1. All people living in New Haven could already open bank accounts prior to the Elm City ID card as was testified to during the hearing. Banks confirmed that including New Alliance among others.

2. The stories of burglaries and robberies were used to foster the idea that fewer people will be robbed because they won’t be keeping cash at home so much now. Whether that was ever true is a matter of speculation and whether that has changed any since then, is certainly dubious given our crime stats.

3. The Elm City card does cost city taxpayers despite the agreement that was passed when it was approved. It is an now an expenditure that costs all taxpayers.

4. As for the prisoner re-entry issue - that this somehow makes it easier - who knows? Fact is, all people need to get proper i.d. The fact they are felons does not bar them from opening bank accounts any more than it does the undocumented community.

Whatever

posted by: BIll Saunders on September 28, 2011  3:48pm

Hey Assessor Dude:

Who does your math anyway??

I just sampled tax data for several single family homes in financially disparate neighborhoods, and all of their taxes are significantly less than 11.5k/year.

I have often thought that Mr. Becker was holding on to a pig in a poke.
At full residency, I barely saw the financials working out.

What would you do if you are charging $1700/month for an apartment, but have to give the City back $1000 per unit in taxes.

If the lawsuit fails, look for rent to rise $720/month/apartment.
(Maybe a little more, to cover the legal fees.)

posted by: robn on September 28, 2011  3:49pm

I’d like to know where the $250k annual profit came from. Sounds like an absurdly low projection for a building of this size and makes me think MEPT is posturing. Any chance MEPT and city hall are in cahoots on this one? Makes sense now why mayor has kept MrO on. Sacrificial lamb anyone?

posted by: Another mess Ollie on September 28, 2011  4:30pm

Just another mess by O;brien, tossed out of Bridgeport to come to New haven for a second time to mess up the city with countless assessment litigation. Look at his record folks check the judicial records I bet the City of New Haven has more pending assessment cases than any other city. His record is far from winning cases. Another case of smoke and Mirrors,shall we call him the Houdini of assessments.

posted by: Bill Saunders on September 28, 2011  4:52pm

Robn,

I have been musing the same thoughts.

250k amounts to the combined yearly income of approximately 10 apartments (out of 500, or a 2% margin).  That is indeed slim.

Is that number based on todays occupancy, or projected rate?

Something just doesn’t seem copacetic.
(Or is that what you meant by “posturing”?)

posted by: what else is new on September 28, 2011  5:10pm

Way to bite the hand that feeds you Bill. ...
Why didn’t you try screwing them a little at a time like everyone else.
That’ll keep out future investors.

The City regularly renigs on all these deals beware.

posted by: Curious on September 28, 2011  5:37pm

Wait, 360 State figures they would make $250,000 a year from this building, with the former tax rate?

That’s only $500 profit per apartment, per year.

Is that really bad?  It seems like it.  How do you only make $500 a year on a luxury apartment?

posted by: Curious on September 28, 2011  5:42pm

@ Assessor…

I have friends who pay $11.5k taxes in Connecticut, too.

They live in Fairfield, with considerably better police, lower crime, and better schools.  What do New Haven citizens have to show for their tax burden?

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on September 28, 2011  9:00pm

@Curious, you’re right.  It’s the argument I’ve found myself making time and time again.  But the one thing you don’t consider is this: New Haven is one of just 5 cities in the state.  Fairfield is a town.  $11,500 buys a lot of police per square mile, where there are less people, hence less crime.  Since New Haven boasts more than 130,000 residents, our crime figures increase exponentially, and we need so much more in the name of police and government action.  Which we are still lacking!  But the equation for towns and taxes is very different.  We need to adopt a working solution, something that a successful (read: safe AND affordable) city is using.

posted by: NH Native on September 28, 2011  9:47pm

Bill,

i understand the developer spent somewhere north of $150 million to build, but how did you reconcile the income approach to your value conclusion?  You certainly couldnt find an apartment sale to reconcile to a $320,000 per unit value?  Clearly the project was overbuilt based on the economics of the transaction only to be further exasperated by an oppressive tax hit in 5 years.

posted by: Thomas on September 29, 2011  12:10am

how long until this building becomes senior housing run by the city?

posted by: Assessor on September 29, 2011  8:12am

@ Curious:

Your calculations are correct but you would likely pay close to a million or more for a home; so, it is still cheaper to live in New Haven, unless you have 20% to put down on a million + dollar home.

the home taxes don’t aggravate me so much…it is the taxes on things like boats, trailers, motorcycles, cars, and business personal property.  that is where it becomes highly unfair.  The state (if anyone from the state is reading this) should consider changing personal property tax to a straight calculation.  I used to live down county and when my automobile was taxed I paid around $195 when new.  I moved shortly after to New Haven and that tax bill went up to $630!  Now here is where we are seriously screwing the working class.  I go from living with a relative to affording a home and now I am doubly screwed because I buy in a lower-rent area.  By the way, my insurance also tripled and I have a perfect driving record.

Bottom line is this state favors the rich, takes from the middle class, and hands it out to the poor like our state senators are planting money trees in Hartford.

A first step would be a flat, extra car tax that goes to the municipalities at time of purchase of a used or new car or a straight car tax calculated fairly for each resident.  Its a start.  It also would level out the playing field on businesses because then they would start coming back to our cities in droves if they knew it was only going to cost “x” to pay property tax on their belongings no matter where they are, rather than 4 to 5 times the cost in the cities than in the burbs (FYI: that is why Shelton has a business boom right now).

posted by: Amy Meek on September 29, 2011  3:50pm

To anon:
The Elm City ID info on the page you linked to looks accurate to me—although it’s certainly not exhaustive, as David Streever pointed out.  If you have additional questions I’d suggest calling the numbers listed on that page.

To David Streever:
I just re-checked with START Bank to verify their policy, and I stand by my original statement.  Individuals are not required to have a “physical social security card” to open a bank account. Federal banking regulations do require banks to ask for both a primary and secondary form of ID, but they don’t require that a social security card be one of those forms of ID.  START Bank accepts the Elm City ID as one form of primary ID, and accepts as secondary ID a range of documents that includes not just a social security card but other types of verified documents, such as a pay stub. The purpose of the secondary ID requirement is not to validate the social security number (which isn’t required to open the account), but as a secondary way of validating identity.

I’m not sure to whom you spoke at START Bank, but my guess is that he or she was trying to give you a simple answer and didn’t realize that you wanted an exhaustive list of documents accepted as secondary ID.

(Interestingly, while I think Noteworthy is exaggerating about “all banks” accepting undocumented individuals, it is absolutely true that at least some major U.S. banks have allowed undocumented individuals to open bank accounts using ITIN numbers rather than social security numbers—see http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/perspectives/serving-under-served-banking-undocumented-immigrants for one quick summary.  However, that doesn’t discount the difficulty that many undocumented individuals or formerly incarcerated individuals have obtaining identification, which is one reason why the Elm City ID really addresses a need.  It’s not that these individuals could *never* get an ID otherwise; however, it can often take months and significant fees to obtain the necessary documents to get a state ID.  In the meantime, having a valid photo ID can help these individuals apply for jobs, cash checks, and yes, open bank accounts—which to me is pretty clearly a good thing for New Haven.)

David, I would be happy to speak further in person or by phone to clear up any further misconceptions—I received your voicemail, but you didn’t leave me your phone number!

Amy Meek
Coordinator, City of New Haven’s Reentry Initiative
203-946-7658

posted by: streever on September 29, 2011  4:09pm

Hi Amy,

sorry about that :) I’ll call you back.

Just to answer the question though—I called Start Bank and asked if I could open a bank account with a ResidentID card. The woman who answered said yes. I asked if I needed any other id, and she said, “You’d need a physical social security card. with a valid SSN.”

I asked her if there was any other type of document I could provide and she said no.

posted by: Curious on September 29, 2011  7:40pm

Check home prices easily….

http://www.zillow.com/

It’s not a million dollar house that’s generating $11.5k in taxes for Fairfield, but half that.

posted by: Assessor on September 30, 2011  12:31pm

@ Curious:

I looked in Faifield:

Here’s the math:

3 bedroom w/ 1.5 baths on similar lot as many homes in the better neighborhoods on New Haven:
$556,000 (this seemed to be on the lower end…they went up to $800,000)
You have to put 20% down to buy a house today so you shell out $111,200 in cash and then:

Monthly mortgage payments (figuring you’ll get low 4s today on interest) is:

$2253.74 + $766 in monthly taxes = $3,019.74

New Haven you can buy a 4 bedroom home with 1.5 baths in Westville, for example for $351,000.  You only need $70,200 down, so you are already banking 41,000 and if you invest it at an average of an 8% return for the rest of your life you do well on that money.

The mortgage at the same rate is now:

$1,422 and your monthly taxes are higher at $1,042 = $2464 / month

Lets say you own one two cars (likely) and they are taxed annually,each with a value of about $10,000 on average ($20K):

In Fairfield those car costs you 20 x 23 MILLs or $460 and in New Haven it is 20 x 43.9 MILLs or $878.

It costs you $36,696.88 to live in Fairfield and you are out all that cash on your downpayment, you live in a white-bread community and your kids don’t understand tolerance for diversity, but you have the upsides you mentioned…

You live in New Haven with this example and it costs you: $30,446 per year plus you have all that cash in the bank for a rainy day fund, your kids grow up tolerant of every race and social class, you have access to amazing restaurants and culture and it costs $0.50/per gallon of gas!

Basically, I don’t get your point about what we have to show for our tax burden.  Have you been to downtown New Haven?  I can take in a movie, go for a world-class dinner, go dancing till 2AM and then even stay at an after party till the wee-hours of the morning, stay in an amazing hotel, wake up and go to the see the biggest collection of British art in the world, go for an afternoon hike up West Rock and down to Wintergreen Lake, go back out to a different amazing dinner, blah, blah, blah, send my kids to a phenomenal magnet school (pick them up from an afternoon course at Yale).

Or, I can go to an amazing restaurant in Fairfield, walk around a band stand watching retirees play in a Barbershop Quartet, go play a round of golf with people wearing all the same polo shirts and pink pants, and feel confident my kids will grow up with no understanding of anyone that doesn’t look just like them.

Figure out the unfair personal property taxes on autos and New Haven seems less expensive and a better place to live.

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