The growing Grand List impacts budget

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I’ve learned that my reference to Cliff Notes in the last issue dated me, and that SparkNotes is trending now. There’s always something new, including at Town Hall. This past month it seemed most discussions revolved around budget preparations, but not everything. Development and trash were also trending topics. Read on for an overview, or read the full meeting minutes—either here in the paper or online.

Grand List grows, which increases Granby tax revenues

Every year at this time the Grand List, or the assessed value of all the taxable property in town is finalized. It’s an important factor in budgeting and taxation. Growth had been around a half percent (0.5 percent) for few years. In 2018 it increased to 1.4 percent, and Granby’s 2019 Grand List grew by $17.2 million or 1.71 percent. The good news is that growth will generate over $680,000 in additional property taxes for Granby next year. 

Where did that Grand List growth come from?

The Grand List has three components, and all increased. Motor vehicle values were up $2.5 million, and new business equipment was up $4.2 million. Perhaps that’s a sign of a better economy, with both residents and businesses buying big-ticket items?

Real estate showed the largest growth at $10.4 million over last year and it’s all from property improvements. Every fifth year all homes are re-valued, but not this year; your assessed value stays unchanged for two more years, unless you make taxable improvements. 

So who did make improvements? Well, almost 80 percent of that $10.4 million increase, or over $600,000 in next year’s taxes, will come from two recent housing developments on Salmon Brook Street:

The Copper Brook Circle single-home development added $3.6 million to the 2019 Grand List. The assessed value of $5.7 million for the whole development (as of Oct. 1, 2019) included 21 homes completed on 33 lots, with more built since then. Several Granby residents have moved into this walkable community near the town center; other buyers are new to town.

The Ridgewood development, across from Floydville Road, added $4.6 million to the 2019 Grand List, for an assessed value of $8.7 million. The project was started two years ago and on Oct. 1, 2019, there were three completed apartment buildings and two partially completed, plus the clubhouse. Fifty single-family home lots were also approved, but construction has not yet begun. 

How else does the Grand List impact the budget for next year?

Grand List growth generates new tax revenue, which in turn reduces the impact on the mill rate (the tax rate). For instance, recall that the growth will generate over $680,000 in additional property taxes. After learning of this, and other factors, the Board of Finance (BOF) was able to determine that for a “less than 2 percent” change in the mill rate they would have to set a guideline of “less than 3 percent increases” in next year’s school and municipal operating costs. Without that growth, the mill rate would have been higher.

Author’s Note: In this column, I do not consider it my place to say if growth and housing development is good or bad for Granby, but to accurately report what is measurable. 

On other developments (pun intended), the site plan was approved for the 235-unit apartment project at 280 Salmon Brook Street, just north of the Town Center. As apartments are allowed there by our zoning regulations, there were no Special Permit approvals asked for or required. The construction schedule and tax implications are yet to be fully determined.

Granby Board of Finance sets spending guidelines

As mentioned, the Board of Finance (BOF) set “less than 3 percent” spending guidelines for the school and municipal operating costs. This was lower than the 5.22 percent and 3.69 percent Plus One cost increases projected over last year. BOF members agreed that the boards and should “sharpen their pencils, again” to keep the mill rate (tax) increase at “less than 2 percent” and in accordance with the long-range plan.

Granby faces big increases in trash fees

Meanwhile, Granby and fifty other towns are facing a proposed $330 million investment to upgrade the regional trash-to-energy plant in Hartford. This could increase tipping fees from $84 to $145 a ton within five years, or cause towns to seek other solutions. Our BOS responded to a MIRA statement of interest with concerns regarding the high fee and proposed 30-year commitment. Town Manager John Ward also recommended Granby explore other options through an RFP process. The decision timeline for this project, which will be affecting Hartford and other participating towns, is reportedly mid-2020. Google ‘MIRA Hartford’ for a wealth of information on the aging plant and their proposal.

The budgeting process and calendar

With projected cost increases and revenue projections now clear, the BOS and BOE will “sharpen their pencils” and finalize their operating budgets during March workshops and meetings.  Presentation of budgets to the BOF is planned for March 30. After that, a public hearing on the budget will be held April 13 and the budget referendum (vote) will be on April 27.
See the Budget Calendar box below for details. All meetings are open to the public.

It’s been an honor to serve as a Granby public official, and it is an interesting challenge to use that background to help inform readers. Like everyone else, I have opinions. But here I will truly try to keep those to myself and stick to old school reporting. Let me know how I’m doing at and follow Granby Drummer on Facebook for timelier, in-depth reporting. 

—Jim Lofink