With one voice, the Board of Alders called on the governor and state legislature to send New Haven all the money required by law.
Alders did that by voting unanimously Monday night to approve a resolution calling on the state to fully fund payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), the money the state is required by law to reimburse cites for non-taxable land owned by hospitals and universities. The state has underfunded PILOT for years, hurting cities like New Haven that can’t tax much of its grand list.
Not only did the entire board vote to approve the resolution Monday; all the alders also signed on as co-sponsors. The resolution also calls for hearings on the low PILOT reimbursements and how they affect the city.
The non-binding resolution was first proposed by freshman Alder Mike Stratton (pictured), who represents Newhallville and Prospect Hill. Stratton has personally hired a lobbyist to help convince the legislature to increase PILOT to New Haven.
The resolution that passed Monday is a revised version of Stratton’s original draft. The revised version is shorter and less confrontational.
Click here to read Stratton’s original language.
Click here to read the approved final version.
Here’s an example of a paragraph that appeared in the original resolution, not the final one:
“[T]he State now tries to make up for a decade of increasingly devastating annual cuts to PILOT by granting the city funds for special projects that the State thinks are needed which thereby undermines the democratic process and creates policy and programs without deliberation or consensus by the city’s legislative and executive branches based on local priorities ...”
Here’s another excised argument:
“[W]hereas the current property tax system without full statutory PILOT leads to a bizarre and unsustainable result, in that when New Haven based non profits expand to provide more necessary and desirable benefits to the region, it is an unwelcome event in the city in that it poses with each such expansion a contraction of our revenue stream and threatens our ability to operate the city ...”
This came out, too:
“[T]here is the overwhelming opinion among New Haven residents that it is unfair, inequitable and even immoral that tax exempt institutions not only do not pay taxes, but that the state does not honor its commitment to fully fund PILOT funds promised the city to compensate the city for loss of this urgently needed tax revenue ... [T]here are no taxes paid to New Haven by any of the workers who live outside New Haven and who claim 81% of the jobs paying a liveable wage in New Haven, nor are any taxes paid by those who live outside New Haven but who regularly and in large volume utilize city non profits ...”
This stayed in, with slightly changed wording:
“[T]he majority of vital services provided to the most needy in the region are borne at the expense of New Haven taxpayers.”
Stratton Monday night gave a short speech on the proposal. New Haven is the reason the region around the city is prosperous, he said. Yet that region doesn’t pay its fair share, he said.
“They duped us!” Stratton said. The state doesn’t pay the full PILOT, then acts like it’s being charitable when it funds various programs in New Haven.
“We don’t need charity,” Stratton said. “We need what is owed.”
He said New Haven is “unjustly oppressed” by the state.
Darryl Brackeen, Upper Westville’s freshman alder, struck a more conciliatory tone.
“This is an item for consensus, not aggression,” he said. The city can work with the state to fix the problem, he said. “Through collaboration we can get this done.”
By state law, the state is supposed to reimburse the city at a rate of 77 percent of the property taxes the city would receive from land belonging to university and hospital properties, and 45 percent for state-owned buildings.
In recent years, however, the state has not even come close to hitting the 77 percent mark. Most recently, according to Stratton, the state paid only 32 percent for college and hospital properties and 23 percent for state properties.