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Car Tax Exemption Might Lower Brookfield Tax Bills

Breaking down the local numbers and effects of Gov. Malloy's budget proposal.

Under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s assessment is exempt from local property taxes. If the measure goes into effect, 14,800 of Brookfield’s 15,935 vehicles would no longer carry an annual tax.

(In Brookfield’s case it would actually be all vehicles under $20,020, as the tax collector does not bill amounts of less than $5.)

The total revenue loss to the town would not be overly significant, according to Town Assessor Denise Hames, as a vehicle assessed at $20,000, at the current mill rate of 24.54, yields about $490 in tax revenue.

Adding up all the vehicles below the exemption line comes to a total assessed value of $106.32 million, representing $2.61 million of the $3.34 million in potential tax revenue. Under the proposal, that would be a loss of 78 percent of the vehicle grand list but less than 0.5 percent of Brookfield’s total grand list.

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The remaining 1,135 vehicles on the list total $29.85 million in assessed value and $732,456 in tax revenue. Check back Thursday morning for a look at the most expensive cars on Brookfield’s grand list.

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Making up for that lost revenue would likely mean a shift in the mill rate, increasing the amount raised from real estate property taxes.

“The change does not change the revenue required by the town,” Selectman Howard Lasser explained. “While it affects the rate, it does not affect the taxes, it only shifts the burden.”

Brookfield’s 2012 vehicle grand list totals $136.17 million, or approximately 6 percent of the total grand list ($2.17 billion). If the entire vehicle tax block were eliminated, by Lasser’s calculations, “It would require the mill rate to increase just under 7 percent (6.7 percent) to generate the same revenue.”

Lasser — who stated that he has not taken a position either way on this proposal — offered this scenario for consideration:

There are approximately 16,000 motor vehicles [in Brookfield]. If we take their GL [grand list] value the average value for a motor vehicle is just under $9,000. Since there are about 7,500 homes in Brookfield, we can assume each probably has two cars.

Under these assumptions the total tax paid for someone with the median value home ($239,480) and two average value cars is about $6,200. Under the scenario of no tax on autos and the higher mill rate, the same person would pay approximately $6,170, or $30 less.

While in that example the average resident would be paying slightly less in taxes, those who’s car values are “disproportionately lower relative to the value of their homes than the average for the town” will end up paying slightly more, Lasser said.

The selectman also noted there would be some administrative savings for the town (“Not having to track 16,000 pieces of property and send 16,000 bills out annually.”) and be easier on the taxpayer, who would have at least one less bill to pay each year.

The Connecticut General Assembly is currently reviewing Malloy’s budget and will put forward their proposal in May.

BobCat February 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Eliminating the car tax will just give the politicians an excuse to fiddle with the other taxes. They will use it as an excuse to adjust the mill rate so in the end, it is almost certain that in real dollars, we will end up paying more.
Raymond E. Sullivan, MD February 28, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Bingo !!!!
Ken February 28, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Actually eliminating the car tax may hurt lower income people who are renters. If the car tax is eliminated the mill rate will increase on real estate to offset the loss of revenue generated by the car tax. Landlords will raise rents to cover the increased property tax they have to pay on their buildings. So unless the amount a renter pays in car tax is an exact offset to a rent increase the net could be higher expenses for the renter. Keep in mind that most renters have older cars so the tax they pay on them is low to start with. So if a renter paid car tax of say $75 per year and the rent went up more than that their living expenses would be higher.
Ken February 28, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Agree with Bob. Cutting the car tax does not miraculously mean that the revenue generated from this source is no longer needed. If the revenue needed to support services is $20mm, that amount does not change regardless of how the revenue is generated. You still need to generate $20MM of tax revenue. The only difference with out the car tax as a revenue source is that number of sources for deriving the required revenue will be more concentrated.
Dan Lemire February 28, 2013 at 04:07 PM
This discussion is a microcosm of our broader political and social world. We start out with a policy proposal, one or two thoughtful people offer pros and cons, and then we devolve into comments about people trying to consolidate power. The people elected to office are reflections of the voters. The more the close-minded the voters, the more close-minded the officeholders. “Anyone who doesn’t agree with me is evil!” That’s the view of so many that it’s frightening. All run the risk of suffocating as they use up the available oxygen in their chosen echo chamber.

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