Glastonbury Town Council concerned that local farms may be taxed too high

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Thu., Oct. 3, 2013
Councilman Tom Gullotta said he'd like the town to urge the state to lower tax rate guidelines for farmland. Photos by Steve Smith.
Councilman Tom Gullotta said he'd like the town to urge the state to lower tax rate guidelines for farmland. Photos by Steve Smith.

At its meeting on Sept. 26, members of the Glastonbury Town Council expressed concern that local farms may be feeling too much of a tax pinch and could eventually decide to sell their property. Town Manager Richard Johnson said, stemming from a presentation at the council's meeting on Sept. 10, a question was asked about the shift between residential and commercial properties in the 2012 revaluation, and the assessments made on “tillable” land, or farm land.

He presented data that showed residential properties decreased by 3.4 percent of the grand list in 2012, after increasing by 3.3 percent in 2007. Conversely, commercial properties increased in 2012, after a decrease in 2007. He added that the change in the mill rate influences properties differently, based on how they are assessed, and that farm land is looked at differently than non-farm residences.

Farmland, Johnson said, uses calculations that are updated every five years by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and incorporated into the revaluation process by the town's assessor. “We found values both above and below the state-recommended values,” he said.

Councilman Tom Gullotta said the figures used to assess farmland are still too high and might discourage farms from staying in Glastonbury, and he requested fellow council members to write a letter to the state expressing disappointment in creating the tax structure that penalizes people for farming. “I don't see it adding much to our town coffers, but it provides a discouragement to a farmer who may not have had a particularly good year, or several good years,” Gullotta said, “and may cause them to perhaps want to sell their property.”

Kurt Cavanaugh said that after consulting with local farmers it was determined that the town's own evaluations would likely be higher than the state recommendations. He added that a letter to the state might be a good idea, but wanted clarification on what it should entail.

“What I would like is to see a formula developed that does not escalate on a state level,” Gullotta said, “that recognizes this land being maintained as farmland, as forest, or as open space.”

Gullotta said he would also ask the legislature to revisit the assessment values and perhaps even “roll back” the numbers. “[The state should] let it be known that this is a state that wants to maintain an agricultural presence, and in order to do that we need to create a set of rules, in this case for taxation, that doesn't have a farmer feeling that, because of taxes, they want to leave,” Gullotta said.

Councilman Whit Osgood said that, by the same token, if the state wants to encourage commercial development it should reduce the tax burden on businesses. Osgood also pointed out that the tax assessments in Glastonbury are based on what the council sets as the town budget.

“If we really want to manage for all sides of the equation, we really need to keep our spending in check,” he said.

Gullotta said he hoped that other council members would join him in drafting a letter.

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