A public hearing on a proposed ordinance establishing tax exemption for personal property leased to non-profit organizations was held prior to the Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 4. Town Manager John Ward reviewed the specifications of the ordinance and noted that only machinery (copiers, computers, tractors, etc.) is covered, not cars or, in Granby’s proposal, real estate.
It was determined that enacting this ordinance, which is in compliance with a state statute, would take approximately $48,000 from the grand list. That translates to a decrease in revenue of around $2,000. These figures were based on this year’s list of non-profits; there is no way to predict what they would be in future years.
Ward was not in favor of the proposal for the following three reasons: although the fiscal ramifications do not seem to be great, whatever tax revenue is missing is then shifted to the rest of the town’s taxpayers; enacting this proposal could open the door to other groups who want tax relief; and finally, it adds extra work to the already busy schedule of the assessor’s office. He noted that at a recent meeting of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the discussion of taxes centered around various ways to increase revenue by instituting some taxes on non-profits. To enact the exemption proposal would be going against the trend. Only three state municipalities have instituted this abatement.
It was noted that neither Ward nor the Town Assessor had received any written comments on this issue.
Although appreciative of the value of non-profits, First Selectman Scott Kuhnly expressed concern that once this abatement was made known, many more organizations would jump on the bandwagon and change their procedures regarding leased versus purchased equipment, increasing the loss of revenue.
Later in the regular BOS meeting, the board decided to table the vote on the proposal so that further study could take place.
During the public session of the hearing on Sept. 4, Bill Regan expressed his dismay that the CCM would even consider taxing non-profits. With regard to added workload in the assessor’s office, he noted that non-profits already have to declare any leased personal property. He said that personal and real property that is owned by a non-profit is already exempt from taxation, and that leasing rather than buying is a way to save money that can be used instead to foster the organization’s mission. He also emphasized the relatively small amount of lost revenue based on the current year.
During the public session on Sept. 17, both Regan and his wife Susan spoke again in favor of the proposal.
Board members then weighed in on the pros and cons. Selectman Neumann felt uneasy about shifting the tax burden, however slight, to other town residents. Sally King noted that the sum being considered was small compared to the budget, and also wondered how the non-profits would hear about this, since there was no response other than the Regans’ to the public hearing. If very few took advantage of the exemption, it would not accomplish its purpose. Town Manager Ward replied that it would be handled through the assessor’s office, since the non-profits have to register there anyway.
Jim Lofink was in favor of the proposal in recognition of the good works done by the non-profits. Ed Ohannessian was concerned with the lack of interest (other than the Regans) in the proposal, knowing how “every nickel counts to a non-profit.” Although in favor of the proposal, he suggested amending it to include a sunset clause that would force re-visiting it in a given time period. The board agreed and chose Jan. 1, 2021. Ohannessian and others were concerned that only three other cities out of the state’s 169 have chosen to adopt this proposal—”What are we not seeing?”
Kuhnly repeated his concerns, emphasizing that what the board decides should be for the greater good of the residents, not just a few, and in spite of having the information on GCTV and in the Drummer, no one except the Regans has shown any interest.
A vote was taken, and the proposal was approved with three in favor, two opposed.
Plan of Conservation and Development Implementation Committee
The board approved forming a committee to prioritize the goals of the most recent iteration of the Plan of Conservation and Development that was published in 2016. The committee will assign tasks to meet those goals to the most appropriate agency. The members chosen for this committee are Margaret Chapple (Planning and Zoning Vice-Chairperson), Peter Jalbert (Conservation Commission), Jim Lofink (Board of Selectmen), Marty Swager (Development Commission) and Ginny Wutka (business owner).
Electrical Easement for Eversource
It was discovered during recent construction of the Ridgewood development at 83 Salmon Brook Street that the electrical building owned by Eversource has no easement, which should have been granted some time ago. The board approved granting the easement, which was further approved by Planning and Zoning at its next meeting.
Eversource requested permission to place a pole on the west side of the road and dig a small trench to provide underground power to the Ridgewood complex. Considering that the alternative would be to use a pole on the opposite side of the street and dig under Rte. 10/202, unanimous approval was quickly granted on Sept. 17.
Director of Community Development Abby Kenyon noted that the Ridgewood developers are constructing a parking lot for the restaurant site, at no cost to the town. Should the town eventually sell that property, the parking lot goes with it—a generous gift from the developers.
Town Manager Reports
New tax law regarding deductions (Neighborhood Assistance)
Under the new federal tax law, deductions for state and local taxes are limited to $10,000 per year. Many Connecticut residents pay more than that in property taxes. Last year, the legislature passed legislation that would enable municipalities to create charities that could receive donations. In return, the donor would receive a credit towards his or her municipal tax. Since charitable donations are not limited, it is a mechanism by which taxpayers could receive full tax deductions for the cost of their municipal taxes. The IRS ruling states that the IRS would not recognize these donations as valid deductions as the donor is receiving something of value in exchange for the donation, thus the purpose of the charity would not be fulfilled.
Monday with the Mayors
In spite of not being mayors, Town Manager Ward and First Selectman Kuhnly were invited to discuss Granby on the Aug. 27 Ray Dunaway Show.
New Trash Receptacle
Ward expressed appreciation for a third trash receptacle that the American Legion Post 182 has installed on the town green.
Ward reminded residents that no political signs may be placed on town property.
Floydville Traffic Light
The installation of the traffic signal at the intersection of Floydville Road and Salmon Brook Street is complete and the light is functional.
The defunct Peppermill Deli has been leased again and is set to open in October. The store will be a similar deli/bakery.
Building Department Hire
A temporary Building Department official has been hired to help out with the continuing stream of permits being requested due to the May 15 hail storm. $10,000 will cover his salary for 6-8 weeks of employment. There were 1,158 permits issued during the previous fiscal year. Only three months into the current fiscal year, there are already 1,054. Total revenue from permits last year was $256,000; currently, the town has already received $218,000.
Bridge Repair Study
At a recent Capital Program Advisory Committee (CPAC) meeting, Town Manager Ward was questioned as to whether Granby’s Public Works Department or a local contractor could do the bridge repairs. This has been done in the past to save the town both time and money. Public Works Director Kirk Severance and Ward met with an engineer who is studying the six bridges involved in order to see if that proposal is feasible.
Jim Lofink suggested that the Griffin Road bridge be addressed first, as it will be a major part of a detour when the DOT begins work on the center realignment.
Public Session, Sept. 4
Susan Regan continued her request for a study committee for the implementation of a marketing strategy to identify the “Granby brand.” She suggested that the committee be made up of business owners, farmers, school officials and other residents. One of the most important values of such a strategy would be the ability of residents to have more input on important financial decisions. She again cited the bundling of the purchase of the former Evonsion property with other necessary town operating expenses in the budget vote to have been not in the best interest of residents.