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New Haven’s tax problems and a commitment to reducing the burden on New Haven taxpayers including homeowners, renters and small business owners. A fair and smart tax policy benefits all of us and is central to our shared future as One City. Henry believes that the key principles of a One City tax policy are the following:
Taxes are a social contract where we all pay to help provide the services that our city needs, including teachers, firefighters, police officers, garbage pickup and roads, bridges and sidewalks. Because this is a social contract where we all pay but we also all benefit, who pays taxes and how much must never be decided by who you know, what office you hold or how powerful you are. Taxes should be progressive and fair such that people can afford to live in New Haven and there is a clear connection between what people can afford to pay and the rate of their taxes. Currently New Haven’s tax burden threatens to push people out of the city – this has to change. Taxes and the whole city budget should be transparent – everyone should understand it. This makes it easier for people to file their taxes, easier for government to administer, and easier for residents to become part of the public process. Taxes should promote economic growth, encouraging businesses to locate and grow in New Haven and supporting new jobs for New Haven residents. Only progressive economic growth will solve the unfair tax burdens which currently exist.
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To meet these principles, as Mayor Henry would take the following clear steps.
Significantly grow the amount of new taxable property in the City to generate new revenues and to reduce the burden on homeowners, renters and small businesses. We have large tracts of vacant land between downtown, the medical complex and the train station. Many of these properties currently are filled with empty land or parking lots which pay very little in taxes. These properties should be built out with commercial and mixed use development that generates new revenues while creating very little in new expenses. Henry’s economic development strategy will strongly encourage developers to build commercial properties in these locations and to do so with only tax paying uses.
Demand that the State fully fund PILOT and build a coalition to accomplish this. PILOT (the state Payment In Lieu Of Taxes program) is meant to reimburse New Haven for lost revenue because so much of our real estate is tax exempt (almost 50%). We are supposed to receive 77% of what we lose from non-profits like Yale and Yale New Haven Hospital being tax exempt, and 45% of what we are supposed to receive for state government buildings like Southern Connecticut State University. Instead, we have consistently received far less. This translates into millions of dollars that must then be paid by New Haven taxpayers as well as cuts to essential New Haven programs like public safety and education. This is unfair. The reason we have this problem is because our legislators have not seen this as an essential priority. Despite having powerful state legislators who have the power to set this reimbursement rate, we have consistently seen those same legislators support two governors in a row that have chosen to underfund New Haven in order to benefit suburban constituents. Henry will build a coalition of other cities that face the same challenges and will work with our state legislators to show how absurd it is that New Haven is being short changed. The effort to protect New Haven taxpayers must be our number one priority at the state legislature.
Support smart growth at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University and work with both to focus that growth in taxpaying and job creating ventures. As New Haveners, we cannot see Yale or our hospital as enemies. They are essential partners that will help recruit new taxpayers, and will brand New Haven as a growing vibrant city. We need a Mayor who understands how to leverage their growth and success to benefit all New
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Haven residents through lower taxes and more jobs. As Mayor of New Haven, Henry will do exactly this. Yale New Haven Hospital and the Yale University School of Medicine are essential to creating new companies, office buildings and laboratory spaces, all of which are taxable. With the establishment of the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”) we can expect significant threats and opportunities for our hospital. We need to understand these and make sure New Haven is on the cutting edge of business development, technology development and patient care. Henry will work closely with both Yale and the hospital to support what they need to grow. While Henry will be supportive of the growth of Yale and Yale New Haven Hospital, he is clear that New Haven’s long term future relies on creating new taxpaying companies to take the burden off over-stressed New Haven homeowners, renters and small business owners. Thus we need to particularly support expansion of our large non-profits which generates taxable property. This includes: working with the university and hospital such that new technologies developed at both lead to companies opening in New Haven; supporting the hospital in the development of for profit ventures based in New Haven including but not limited to pharmaceuticals, doctors’ offices, hotel rooms for patients and guests, medical testing, and medical technologies in a range of fields.
Improve property values in neighborhoods across the city so that taxes are fair and homeowners are no longer at risk of losing tens of thousands of dollars in equity in their homes. This will only be done if we improve schools and cut crime. Our taxes in New Haven are based on property values set by a process called revaluation. In the last revaluation, which corresponded with the collapse of the housing market nationally, property values dropped dramatically in some New Haven neighborhoods but not in others. In neighborhoods where property values stayed stable, taxes went up, in neighborhoods where property values dropped significantly, taxes went down. This was not good for anyone. In Henry’s neighborhood of Fair Haven for instance, property values went down and this led to slightly reduced taxes for many homeowners. But this was not a good thing because it meant that residents lost equity in their homes, and in many cases rapidly lost so much value in their homes that they owed more on their mortgages than they could sell their homes for. This loss of equity meant that families could no longer get a loan from their home to help pay for college, or to start a small business or to make home improvements. Nor could they sell their home and make money or give the home to an adult child without passing along significant debts. Our homes for most Americans, and most New Haven homeowners, are our biggest investment, and the loss of value reflected a dramatic loss of family wealth in our city.
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The neighborhoods that saw taxes go up were neighborhoods with greater stability. They have less crime and schools which families are clamoring to get into. As a result it is easier for families to sell their homes and property values stay stronger. If we want to stabilize taxes and get them to go down in these more stable neighborhoods, we need to improve the schools for all children and reduce crime in all neighborhoods. We are One City. The taxes one neighborhood pays are directly tied to the quality of schools and level of crime that other neighborhoods face. To get taxes under control, we need to make sure every child has a great school and every neighborhood is safe.
Hold the line on spending. As a small business owner, Henry sets budgets and controls costs on a daily basis. In small business, you cannot spend what you do not have. While city government plays important roles in our lives, it should not be so expensive that it drives families from New Haven. We need the services city government provides, including schools, policing, fire services, snow removal, services for seniors, and trash pick up. But just as in small business, we need to understand that we cannot spend what we do not have. Henry will keep spending under control and has a track record of balancing the city budgets for which he was responsible. Henry’s first job as Mayor is to represent the people of New Haven and to ensure that our taxes are fair and do not drive people out of the city. He supports workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain through unions as well as important tools like binding arbitration. He will be a tough negotiator on behalf of the people of New Haven and ensure that our labor contracts, while fair for our city employees, start and end with the simple truth: that we cannot spend what we do not have.
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