Stratton Hires Lobbyist For PILOT Push
by Thomas MacMillan | Feb 2, 2014 2:02 pm
In his quest to compel state lawmakers to send more money to New Haven, freshman Alder Michael Stratton has personally hired a lobbyist to win suburban support for creating a regional board that would oversee some city spending.
Stratton, who represents Prospect Hill and Newhallville, is trying convince the governor and state legislature to send more cash to New Haven, where 47 percent of the city’s land is not taxable. Stratton has launched two efforts to revive a perennial plea for more payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) money.
First, Stratton is paying lobbyist Bob Shea to win over suburban lawmakers who may oppose full PILOT funding. In that quest, Shea, a West Hartford lawyer, is equipped with a new idea: If the state fully funds PILOT, New Haven could create a “regional board” comprising representatives of each of the towns that ring New Haven. The board would have non-binding authority to “oversee how we spend 5 or 10 percent” of PILOT money, Stratton said. That way, Stratton said, suburbanites could ensure that money spent on services in New Haven really does benefit the region, as New Haveners often argue.
Stratton is also trying to rally his colleagues on the Board of Alders to pass a resolution calling for the the state to fully fund PILOT. He has secured board President Alder Jorge Perez as a co-sponsor. Click here to read a draft of his resolution.
“PILOT” refers to money that the city receives from the state to make up for the fact that so much property in the city is tax-exempt. Colleges, universities, and hospitals do not have to pay property taxes, the main source of revenue for the city.
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.
Stratton said the city should receive as much as $50 million more than it has been. That money would help the city lower property taxes by 20 percent overnight, he argued.
New Haven creates thousands of jobs that are held by suburbanites, Stratton said. “At present, they’re not paying for the benefit they’re getting.”
The suburbs reap the benefits of Yale and New Haven’s hospitals as sources of jobs and services, and Yale has “a massive impact on surrounding housing values” because of professors who live in the suburbs, Stratton said.
Stratton said the “biggest rebuttal” from suburbanites who don’t want to fully fund PILOT is that since Connecticut is one of the few states that even offers payments in lieu of taxes, any amount of PILOT is more than cities would get anywhere else.
“That’s another spurious argument, because Connecticut is a very unusual place,” Stratton said. Most states don’t have as many towns, and their cities are bigger, he said. “We [in New Haven] have only 18 square miles to work with” and almost half of that is not taxable.
“PILOT is the way you make this fair,” Stratton said. He said he wants to “make sure the rest of the region isn’t free-riding off the back of New Haven taxpayers.”
Informed of Stratton’s proposed resolution, Malloy spokesman David Bednarz said, “The governor understands their concerns. He will have more to say regarding municipal aid when his budget proposal is released next week.”
“In general, conceptually it’s a good idea,” said Alder Perez, speaking about Stratton’s proposed resolution.
“We should advocate for 100 percent funding,” Perez said.
“Like any other idea, it may take multiple tries,” he said. Even if the city doesn’t end up with 100 percent PILOT funding, the effort might still yield an increase. “Every journey starts with the first step.”
Perez said he is working with Stratton on the wording of the proposal and has signed on as a co-sponsor.
Perez said he expects the proposal to be on the agenda at the Board of Alders’ meeting on Monday, likely as a fast-tracked “unanimous consent” item.
It’s important to pass it quickly, because the state legislative session is about to begin, Perez said.
Stratton welcomed Perez’s support: “That’s good news because Jorge has the credibility that I don’t.”
Stratton said that as of Friday afternoon, the proposed resolution had five other co-sponsors, all members of the newly formed “People’s Caucus.”
Everybody Likes Bobby
Stratton said he talked to the members of New Haven’s Capitol delegation and found that suburban lawmakers pose the main obstacle to full PILOT funding. Stratton has hired Shea to talk to “four or five” key suburban legislators, including Guilford/Branford state Rep. Pat Widlitz, who chairs the Finance Committee; state Sen. Joseph Crisco; Hamden state Rep. Brendan Sharkey, speaker of the house; and state Sen. Leonard Fasano, the only Republican in the group.
“I used to work with Bobby Shea,” Stratton said. “He’s terrific. Everybody likes him. I called him up and said, ‘Can you help me navigate the personalities? Help me understand what’s important to suburban legislators.’”
One of the ideas Shea and Stratton came up with is the creation of a “regional board” that would oversee the expenditure of a small portion of New Haven’s PILOT funds.
“[New Haven] would be called a ‘regional hub,’” Stratton said. Bridgeport would also be a regional hub. “Each town in the ring around the hub would have one member on the board. They would oversee how we spend 5 or 10 percent of that money.”
The board would help ensure PILOT money is used to “enhance services people in the suburbs enjoy,” Stratton said. Giving the suburbs this kind of input would make a vote to fully fund PILOT more attractive to suburban lawmakers, Stratton argued.
“The regional board recommendations wouldn’t be binding,” Stratton said. But if the city chose not to follow the board’s advice, it would have to demonstrate how PILOT spending serves the suburbs.
Stratton said the creation of a regional board would be way to increase regional cooperation in general. Stratton said his hope is that new board would lead to things like the regionalization of library systems, or fire service.
“We need regionalism,” he said. “And we need a vehicle to get us to do some more regional activity.”
Perez said that Stratton’s “regional board” idea sounds premature, and complicates what is otherwise a simple request to the legislature.
“Let’s get to the first base before we start talking about the second base,” Perez said.
The resolution itself says that New Haven should have control over the funds. “We shouldn’t negotiate against ourselves,” Perez said.
And the city shouldn’t make a basic request into a complex one, Perez said. “Our ask is very simple. We’re asking the state to fund PILOT fully.”
Stratton said PILOT funding is vital in part because it’s one of the city’s largest sources of unrestricted spending money. He said the state often gives New Haven money with strings attached, earmarked for very particular purposes.
“Then we say, ‘Where’s our PILOT?’ And they say, ‘We gave you those programs,’” Stratton said.
It amounts to a kind of “charity,” not full empowerment, Stratton said. “That’s the culture that’s developed.”
Politicians find money for “pet projects” but not for PILOT, which allows them to stand in front of a health clinic or a new youth program and say, “Look at the pity I showed New Haven.”
“It’s not malevolent,” but it is “patronizing,” Stratton said.
The current system is “incredibly wasteful and inefficient” and “it keeps us in chaos,” Stratton said. The city can’t budget effectively because it can’t know how much money it will get from the state.
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This appears to be more political stunt and an early swipe at Harp than a well thought out attempt to impact policy. New Haven has had two members of congress on the appropriations committee. They fought aggressively for PILOT each year and PILOT dollars always increased over what was budgeted. However, the state is running at a deficit (despite its budget surplus - two very different things).
More important than any lobbyist is that Governor Malloy needs to carry New Haven, Hartford, and Bridgeport in order to win reelection. He has an ally in Mayor Harp who will undoubtedly use her influence, again, to achieve higher levels of PILOT funding. And while Mr. Stratton appears to have sights set on the Mayor’s seat, he should be communicating with the governor and other delegates directly if that is indeed his desire.
Until then, this is little more than smoke and mirrors. And a City can’t impose or pass legislation requiring a state fully fund PILOT or otherwise. Again, smoke and mirrors.
I’m still trying to figure out this guy Stratton. And they used to say that I was crazy…lol…
I like that he is trying to shake things up, but this proposal is embarrassingly patronizing. The fact is these non profit non tax paying entities cheat New Haven taxpayers and citizens everyday by not paying their fair share. It isn’t about whether or not we spend our money wisely ( I don’t think we do for the most part), but New Haven is not any worse than any of those suburban towns. How many of those little burbs have had their finance directors arrested for stealing public funds. At least when they steal in New Haven, it’s done legally…lol…
How patronizing is it for a New Haven Alder to suggest that we need suburbanites to help us how to figure out how to spend OUR money? How about we go to their towns and tell them how to spend their money that they earn working in New Haven. That PILOT money is rightfully OURS. If the state wants to take property in New Haven and open up shop, they should pay FULL taxes.
Mike, keep stirring the pot, but this lame brain idea needs to be shot down by the Mayor and the President of the BOA ASAP.
I believe Hamden is attempting to get the Pilot program reversed with regards to Quinnipiac University.
My understanding of proposal is, all non-profits will be taxed the normal rates on all properties currently classified as non-profit tax exempt property. It would then be up to the non-profit institution to act on their own behalf for reimbursement at the state level. These institutions are much more capable of lobbying the state for PILOT. It would relieve the poor citizens of these cities, such as ours, who anchor and support these freeloaders and get pennies on the dollar back from Hartford.
Stratton and BofA should get on this train instead, instead of an overly complicated regional that Connecticut suburbanites will NEVER support.
Hate to see this Alder waste his energy without going for the jugular. I’m not sure how we could be restricted by state and federal laws, but I would immediately propose tax legislation for the BofA to vote on, taxing all non-profits at current rates with the understanding that they, not us, must now be responsible for reimbursement from Hartfords PILOT program.
This is what should be done. That is what is right.
I applaud the efforts of the new Alder. But you should start from a position of power and then when its time to meet in the middle you don’t get the shaft.
Power to the citizens of New Haven!
The reason the city’s request for full 77% pilot payment is repeatedly denied is due to the conditions tied to the law outlined in:
STATE AND LOCAL REVENUE SERVICES.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE SERVICES
Sec. 12-20a. Grants in lieu of taxes on real property of private colleges, general hospitals, chronic disease hospitals and certain urgent care facilities. (a) On or before January first, annually, the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management shall determine the amount due to each municipality
But Sec (B) provides the following restricting related to the amount of money approved by the state legislature:
(b) The grant payable to any municipality under the provisions of this section in the state fiscal year commencing July 1, 1999, and in each fiscal year thereafter, shall be equal to seventy-seven per cent of the property taxes which, except for any exemption applicable to any such institution of higher education or general hospital facility under the provisions of section 12-81, would have been paid with respect to such exempt real property on the assessment list in such municipality for the assessment date two years prior to the commencement of the state fiscal year in which such grant is payable. The amount of the grant payable to each municipality in any year in accordance with this section shall be reduced proportionately in the event that the total of such grants in such year exceeds the amount appropriated for the purposes of this section with respect to such year.
Section B will be your hurtle Stratton.
The state has a statutory requirement to fully fund PILOT. Past attempts to increase the funding have achieved less than 50% of the statutory requirement and can’t be considered a success.
At this point I ‘ll support any effort outside of normal channels because normal channels gotten us nowhere. If Mike starts a kickstarter campaign for this lobbying I’ll pony up some dough.
Stratton has a copy of the 1985 Tax Commission Report in which it was made clear that the current tax set up doesn’t work and needed serious reform.
Yale and other wealthy “non-profits” do not pay their fair share of taxes and PILOT does not reimburse the city of New Haven in full and likely never will. Besides, it’s just another tax payer subsidy for the free loaders.
As has been pointed out in other posts, New Haven houses the homeless from surrounding towns. What more accountability is needed?
Keep avoiding the elephant in the room by side stepping tax reform, but don’t be surprised if you get crushed.
Credit Stratton for raising this. I don’t know how New Haven survives with half its property tax exempt! The only part of the economy doing well is the non-profit sector. Why? Because they don’t pay taxes. Until they step up and pay their fair share, especially the wealthy non-profits, the least the state can do is not stiff us on our full PILOT payment! If they can’t afford the full PILOT then they should acknowledge this is broken and fix it!
I absolutely support Stratton’s desire to pay for a lobbyist to attempt to get PILOT fully funded if he has the money to burn.
What I don’t agree with is his proposal to set up a regional entity to create a “regional board” that would oversee the expenditure of a small portion of New Haven’s PILOT funds. As I said previously, if they want to help us spend OUR PILOT funds, then we should help them spend the money they earn in New Haven everyday.
I don’t see how it’s patronizing to have a committee that includes surrounding towns. It’s a non binding vote, it gets us more money, and New Haven is very integrated with surrounding towns, having us all work to implement some common goals would help the entire area. I imagine the Hamden mayor and town council might be interested in working together on this, not just because of how much the towns are connected, but because as someone already said, they’re having similar issues with QU.
Must be nice to just open your checkbook and hire a lobbyist for the goal you are pursuing, however good it may be. I’ll bet the other alders (who essentially serve as volunteers) have to do a lot more work when they have a good idea.
As i sit here at my desk at 2am trying to figure out how we—the people and BOA—can get this town properly funded, I made the classic error of reading the comments. Clarity is needed. i run a law firm where I am responsible for trying cases, and where I am also responsible for ensuring that my employees and their families are paid. I can’t run a law firm and try cases as a mayor. Trials of civil cases against major insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies, and large energy firms is incredibly time consuming often eating 70-80 hours a week for 5-6 weeks. I also have my commitments to many groups doing important work like IRIS, solar youth, WNPR, WSHU, and many many more. I become mayor they lose. And I love my job. Its draining but rewarding taking down bad cops like EHPD in December. I actually love New Haven. Thats why I am doing this, and I am tired of people not passionately advocating for it. I am treating my job as alder like I would treat a major case against a massive bureaucracy. I was born to very young parents with no college educations. My dad worked in a mailroom.No trust funds. We lived in a 3rd floor flat on barnett street. My mom was a part time children’s minister, even without a degree (which she later got in her 30s, 40s) she was wildly creative and reached into the hill neighborhood to bring kids into the United Church on the Green downtown NH. I spent my childhood working homeless shelters, soup kitchens and with DCM youth group. I got incredibly lucky and got a spot at Hopkins in 9th grade as a work scholar and spent my summers and 1 hour a day paying for my tuition at the school. This propelled me through college and law school where I worked to pay my education selling books, grinders, driving a cab for 3 years in boston and at terminal taxi in NH. So why the effort, I want NHV fixed so we can enjoy a healthy vibrant city. I don’t need a title, I need to know inside that I tried. So kick me if you must… Im a big boy.
The underlying issue is the reliance on the property tax to fund education in this state. The property tax should be used for a limited number of municipal side budget items, such as police, fire, roads, public works, and there should probably some flexibility, but those services clearly benefit most tax exempt non governmental entitites, and so they should be contributing.
How then should education be funded, you ask? That is the 70% (in most town budgets) question.
The regionalization issue is forever DOA because you’re asking people to not only increase their taxes but to give up some measure of power (home rule). And Stratton’s regional board proposal is a camel’s nose in the tent.
Interesting point about education funding and local control is that boards of education are creatures of the state board of education. In most towns, the boards of alders, town managers, mayors and selectmen have no say in specific line items, they can either accept or reject a BOE budget in toto.
Better than fully funding PILOT, would be to drop property taxes entirely to fund our government—both state and local—with a progressive income tax.
This would ensure fairness both for the taxpayer and for tax revenue recipients.
For example, older people on fixed incomes would not be priced out of their homes by ever-increasing tax bills.
On the spending side, suburban school districts would receive no more per pupil spending than poorer urban districts. Currently, there is a 14 percent disparity.
This would help revive our urban centers with a wider mix of income demographics since there will no longer be a perceived need to move to the suburbs for a better school system.
I realize this would be a hard lift politically, given than it would not be in the self-interest of communities that have high property valuations and revenue to reject the status quo.
Sent from my iPad
The issue of underfunded PILOT payments has been a longstanding problem for New Haven. Past approaches have not worked. Perez and the other lifetime politicians would prefer to tackle the problem through back-room schmoozing. They don’t realize that they’ve been pushing on a string for many years. So when I read “Perez said that Stratton’s “regional board” idea sounds premature, and complicates what is otherwise a simple request to the legislature”, my response is that Perez’ approach hasn’t worked and he shouldn’t be criticizing Stratton for taking a different approach. What has Perez done for New Haven? Nothing!
Stratton is an outsider who is willing to try new and creative ideas, and he deserves credit for trying to shake the trees. Kudos to Statton!
Anyone implying or out right saying this alderman is doing this to discredit or make our mayor look bad, I have to take issue with. Mayor Harp needs no help in that department, she has been successful so far all on her own! At least this alderman is trying something and at his own expense. Whether he can afford it or not, the point is he wants to help the city and not just isolate himself to just his ward. Glad to see Perez is sponsoring something with him! These old lifetime politicians need to actually start trying to think outside of the box if that is even possible at this point in time considering the make up of the board.
PILOT has been the 500 pound gorilla in the room for years. I applaud Mr Stratton for taking this on, however difficult it may be to accomplish anything. This is a great first step and at very least brings the topic up for some discussion.
Thanks Mike, and don’t let the envious haters get you down!
@mstratton, thanks for sharing that comment, and thanks for being so invested in New Haven. Like many of us who read the NHI, you obviously love this city and want it to reach its potential. Thanks for putting in the effort on top of your already busy life and for pitching in your own money to try to get more funding for our city. I’m sure I speak for many when I say I hugely appreciate your service - as well as all of the other alders as well. I’m sure you could live anywhere and I’m glad you choose to live/stay in New Haven and are helping to improve it. We’re lucky to have you here.
@mstratton on February 1, 2014 2:46am
Mr. Stratton, your response reads like you perceive yourself as a victim in this story. I do not see how the respondents are “kicking you around” for doing your legislative duty.
On the contrary, in my opinion you have demonstrated a passion for being the leader in the introduction of legislative initiatives without first doing your homework, specifically, you need to perform research on current BOA ordinances and state statues regarding PILOT before brain storming “at 2:00AM in the morning” .
You cannot just throw graffiti on the wall and hope it sticks and if it does not, move on to another issue, like it never happened.
On the other hand, I do admire your enthusiasm, however, be advised that both Darnell, and Brian Jenkins also had good ideas with that, go it alone self style and mentality, only producing zero support among the alders, resulting in failure and being pushed off the board by DeStefano.
Hiring a lobbist is only an attention grabbing headline.
My suggestion is that you research first, build conscience, and then file amendments.
I won’t speak for Brian Jenkins, but I did research on EVERY issue and idea I brought before the BOA. In addition, on most issues I had a coalition of about the same number of Alders as Mr. Stratton has now. For the most part, most folks want to be on the winning side, and will usually justify leaving the coalition with some sort of “win”, or buy off. Me personally, I prefer being on the “right” side, rather than the “winning” side. There were many times that I was invited to “private” meetings to try to work out an issue, I refused to attend any meeting that was not open to the public and press. We were doing the people’s business. I was offered “goodies”, invited to parties, and all that other stuff. I was tempted, which was the very reason why I would not take or go. It made me seem distant and aloof, but it was really my way of staying true to myself and focused. I felt that it was an insult to the citizens to go in a room, decide on an issue, then come out and vote without any discussion whatsoever. So I debated, sometimes as a devil’s advocate, just so citizens what our thinking was on these issues.
I didn’t want a title, or a chairmanship, if it didn’t mean that I could get some stuff accomplished. Mayor Harp called me an advocate, I consider myself more of an agitator, some would call me an “a” word that isn’t as nice. So be it.
And please don’t listen to the outlandish negative criticism. For every anonymous person taking pot shots at you on a message board there are many, many more who appreciate what you do for New Haven.
Pantagruel’s approach is much more sensible than trying to squeeze more out of PILOT and the State Legislature. Every election some candidate identifies the inadequate payments as something to be addressed….. and nothing happens. Ok, maybe small, incremental increases.
We need tax reform.
We need a NEW approach to funding the important things we depend on gov’t for.
Property taxes are maxed out.
Also, why should localities continue to fund education for people who likely will not stay where they grew up. Education is a national need and should have more national funding.
How many drones and ICBMs are we willing to give up for the next generation?
To Mike Stratton:
We don’t want to kick you; we just want to harness you for peaceful purposes :-)!
Stratton is doing a great job, sounds like the kind of guy we all knew growing up in New Haven without the happy ending. Congrats to his unlikely ascent into the the 1%.
Question is, who is picking your pockets? Is it Stratton or is it the city of New Haven. If you own and maintain property in this city you shoulder 90% of the tax burden, a guess, but prove me wrong and I will oblige to the exact number, but it is large.
Something has to give.
The city is a slow moving train wreck. Somebody got elected to the BofA who doesn’t represent Yale and we act like the world turned suddenly square, or conspiracy of mayoral triumph! Who would want such a thing?
We are the people of New Haven. We have a lot of money to work with every year, let’s use it for us. Every year we are the beggar. Let Yale be the beggar for a change. Support the effort to tax these non-profits the mil rate everyone pays and let those multi-national institutions beg for reimbursement.
We will be beggars no more.
The problem is that you have spent much of your time as an alder candidate and an alder kicking others, who are also trying to help the city they love.
Believe it or not, other alders have also undertaken an immense amount of effort outside of their professional lives to help this city. Consider some examples. When Alders Walker and Eidelson worked to secure $750 K for youth opportunities, they were doing so to help this city. When Alders Clyburn and Foskey-Cyrus worked to secure a community benefits agreement with the Achievement First school, they were doing so to help this city. When Alders Perez, Paolillo Jr. and Elicker worked to keep illegal dirt bikes off of the streets, they were doing so to help this city. The Alders in general worked to implement New Haven Works and pressure for community policing. They undertook this work because they care about this city.
So, mstratton I’m hoping you can learn from your experience. Stop dehumanizing your colleagues with terms like “the machine.” Stop negating their work, and stop judging their motivations. Instead, try to recognize that they are also committed people who are grappling with the complex challenges that our city faces. Coming on here, crying for more respect, and bragging about your ability to take a kick doesn’t make you a big boy. If you want to be a big boy, then try to recognize that others may also be acting on motivations that are as respectable as you perceive your own motivations to be.
So glad Alderman Stratton you wrote your comment. You are an honorable person what I can see. So continue on and ignore some of the ignorant comments. You are like a light at the end of the tunnel with some good ideas and willing to bring them forward. Keep it up and hopefully this odd BOA will lighten up. And lastly, thank you!
Every time in this forum that you mention Alderperson Eidelson getting a $750k grant for youth intervention, I’m going to mention that she completely misrepresented youth crime in New Haven. Are you going to make never linking to the actual statistics showing a decline in youth crime over and over again?
So what you’re basically saying is you’re mad Stratton is a politician you don’t agree with in full.
Indeed. I haven’t seen anyone in New Haven politics who doesn’t want PILOT fully funded. The privately funded lobbyist printed in the paper is kind of funny but whatever. It’s just strange to see the defensive commentary come from someone who has been pretty out there in terms of his commentary on other people.
I completely support the effort to get full PILOT funding. I applaud anyone’s efforts to get this funding. But, as K Harrison notes, it is still worth acknowledging and asking mstratton to acknowledge that he is bemoaning behavior, which is very similar to behavior he has consistently exhibited as a candidate and an alder.
My take on Ald. Stratton if quite different from that of my friend Goldson.
The mere fact that Ald. Stratton wishes to use his own resources to help the taxpayers of the city, is commendable.
Moreover, there should be a board/committee that monitors the spending of such dollars. We all should warrant any instrument that would hold individuals accountable.
I look forward to seeing more ideas (Comparable to this) emanate from this gentleman.
I applaud Ald. Stratton’s independence.
Does he have a desire to run for mayor? I’m not sure. But so what if he does? If he were to run, I would certainly be interested in his campaign…and if he continues this type of activity, others will be also.
I think you and I may agree more than we disagree on this issue.
1. As I said earlier, I commend him on his ability and desire to use his own resources.
2. I like his independence.
3. I do agree that PILOT funds, as any other, should have oversight, like all other funds.
Where we may disagree is who conducts the oversight. Since it is OUR money, we New Haveners should have that oversight. Mr Stratton suggest that non New Haven residents should have some say in how we spend OUR money. Do you agree with that notion?