BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Black Rockers are poised to storm Tuesday’s City Council meeting, demanding answers to a 29 percent mill rate hike that will spell $2,000-and-up tax hikes for homeowners already stretched by a sagging Grand List and slow home sales.
“I already work two jobs to make ends meet,” said Leslie Brazier, a grandmother of two who owns a modest home in the neighborhood. “I doubt my house would sell at the assessed value, especially with the $10,000-plus tax bill.”
Former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, who has lived in Black Rock for more than six years, said he believes the nearly 30 percent mill rate hike is the highest jump in a single year in Bridgeport history and may be the steepest in U.S. history.
He’s calling for an independent financial control board to take over, saying that fiscal mismanagement and incompetence is to blame for the city’s budget woes. Others have asked whether the real solution is seceding from the city.
Walker expects a large crowd will attend the meeting at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers. Public comments are expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.
“This is beyond the pale,” said the senior strategic adviser, who said his taxes have gone up 70 percent since 2008. “They don’t even appear to be trying.”
Mayor Joe Ganim, a Democrat, ran for office on a pledge that he would hold the line on taxes. Shortly after taking the oath, however, he announced his administration inherited a $20 million debt from former Mayor Bill Finch.
A recent property revaluation lowered the value of many Bridgeport homes, but owners in Black Rock didn’t see the major change that would offset the new mill rate’s effects.
As a homeowner himself, state Rep. Steve Stafstrom said he shares neighbors' concerns.
"The regressive property tax structure imposes an undue burden on all of us who call Bridgeport home and stifles job growth and economic development," he said in a prepared statement. "Fearing that the revaluation would have an adverse impact, the Bridgeport legislative delegation fought hard this year to bring back $7 million in new municipal aid, to save the city $5 million in pension payments, and reduce the car tax rate.”
In a letter to homeowners, Ganim said the 2016-17 budget “cuts and controls the spending of local government in several key areas, while also funding 100 new police officers and making important investments in (the) city’s future.”
He said his administration was continuing to streamline city services and cut costs.
“As we do this, we ask for your assistance and patience,” Ganim wrote.
But Phil Blagys, a lifelong Black Rock resident, said patience is wearing thin among his neighbors.
“Twenty-nine percent? That’s a huge increase,” he said. “Obviously, something went terribly wrong here.
“People on fixed incomes, the seniors, are being taxed out of their own homes.”
Walker said proper fiscal management is needed.
“We need competency and we need integrity,” he said. “They’re just playing us for fools.”
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