Grand List reflects flat commercial growth

How much would the Grand List have to grow by to prevent an increase in taxes?

"Assuming all other components of the 2018 mill rate remained constant, the taxable grand list would have had to have grown by approximately $80 million or just under 1.9% to achieve a flat mill rate and thus no tax increase,” First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice told The Bulletin.

Instead, the taxable grand list grew by only $11.5 million or 0.27%, Vanderslice said.

A check of the Grand List from 2006 to 2015 shows a fairly stable net taxable amount, hovering in the $4.3-billion range for the past four years. The percentage of the Grand List represented by the commercial/industrial sector has risen only a little, wavering from 11.7% in 2006 to 13.9% in 2015.

It’s a scenario that has played out across Connecticut in recent years, according to economist Steven Glazer of Norwalk Community College.

“There are a number of possible explanations,” Glazer said. Other than the obvious, which is that not a lot of new commercial and industrial companies have come to town, “it may be due to the depreciation of machinery. It is also probably indicative of the state of Connecticut as a whole, given the belief about the state not being business friendly, a stigma that is not entirely valid, but still serves to deter businesses from making Connecticut their first choice when deciding where to operate.”

The Bulletin reached out to Debra Hanson, executive director of the Wilton Chamber of Commerce, for a response to this data. She referred questions to Vanderslice, who did some research for herself.

“I pulled the numbers myself, as far back as the Oct 1, 2012 grand list, which is the date of the last revaluation,” Vanderslice said.

Between Oct 1, 2012 and Oct 1, 2016, residential grew by $75 million or just over 2%. Drivers were about $15 million for the River Ridge development and new single-family homes and improvements to and expansion of existing single-family homes.

Between that same time period, commercial grew by approximately $7.5 million or approx 1.3%. Drivers were expansions of existing commercial buildings and apartments, she said.

“We will see much higher growth in the next two grand lists, Oct 1, 2017 and Oct 1, 2018, due to the completion of the 30-unit apartment building on Old Danbury Road, the medical building which is currently under construction on Danbury Road and the proposed assisted-living facility on Danbury Road, which if approved will break ground this fall,” Vanderslice said. “Growth of the residential grand list should remain slow due to diminishing developable land and demand.”

Vivian Shiue, chairman of the Economic Development Commission, did not respond to several requests for comment on the data.

Earlier this year, Assessor David Lisowski commented on the modest growth of the grand list which he attributed to a slowing of development.

“There’s a fair amount of building permits, but their magnitude is decreasing,” he said.

“If the town got a development like River Ridge every year — either residential or commercial — in addition to the normal activity, you wouldn’t see [growth] drop and drop and drop.

Gone are the days, however, when the town saw developments like 20 Westport Road or 40 Danbury Road.

“The only way to grow the grand list is through development of one sort or another,” he said.