About 25 local business people turned out for breakfast Jan. 11 at the Wilton Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs and the Economy presentation. And what they wanted to know from Professor Steve Glazer, an economist at Norwalk Community College, is what’s in store for Wilton in 2018.

When is the local economy picking up? Why is it so hard to sell a home?

“With changes in the tax law and the effect on higher-end homes, I’m not optimistic,” Glazer told the crowd gathered at Marly’s Bar and Bistro in Wilton Center. He said he wished he had better news.

“I hope I’m wrong. When it comes to predictions, it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen,” Glazer said.

It doesn’t help that Connecticut is one of the top states in the country for declining population, as people move elsewhere to find better living opportunities and jobs. That makes it all the harder for the financially struggling state to get on its feet and move forward.

“If numbers keep going as they are, our population is going to drop. And that is not good,” Glazer said.

Aren’t we paying double tax? That’s what Peg Koellmer of Realty Seven wanted to know. Glazer nodded his head in agreement.

Jay Fusci of Minuteman Press suggested the state build an infrastructure of high-speed Internet and advanced communications in cities like Bridgeport and New Haven, to draw millennials.

That is a nice idea, but it won’t help until the state reverses its image of being unfriendly to business, Glazer said.

“The state is not business-friendly. That’s the first thing we need to do,” Glazer said. “Until we do that, we can have all these other aspects, but if people believe it’s not friendly to business, what’s point of moving here?”

Karen O’Brien, a new member of the Chamber who has a local State Farm Insurance office, wanted to know what incentives the state has for small businesses, the way it does for large corporations.

“For larger businesses there usually are incentives, and that’s why they leave the state, because they get better tax incentives in New York,” he said. “For smaller businesses there is not as much as for those large guys, because they are not as splashy. You don’t hear about mom-and-pop stores. They don’t have the same glamorous name associated with them,” Glazer said, advising O’Brien to look to the Small Business Administration and the local Chamber for help.

Mike Kaelin, a member of the Board of Selectmen, posed more of a statement than a question. He said the state’s basic problem is spending, not revenue. He advised that this is a gubernatorial election year and people should pay attention to the candidates to see who has the best ideas. Needs include mass transportation, he said.

“It comes down to basic management,” Kaelin said.

As for Wilton, Glazer said a report prepared by the Western Connecticut Council of Governments in 2014 showed Wilton’s median household income as $175,019, compared with $69,899 in the state and $53,842 nationwide.

Between 2000 and 2014, average home values across the country rose by 6.9%, while in Connecticut as a whole, they increased substantially more, by 19.6%. Wilton’s home values rose by 4.9% during that time, but Glazer said the dollar value was greater in Wilton because home prices are higher.

“In Wilton, they increased by $38,115, compared to $11,278 for the nation and $45,051 for the state,” he said.

In Wilton during 2017, there were $8.8 million worth of home additions, for an average of $85,000 per addition, up substantially from 2016, when it was $5.5 million, worth an average of $68,0000 per addition.

Tax reform

From a national perspective, the big news for 2018 is the new GOP tax reform, which is the largest tax package since 1986. “For some in this room, you will see a benefit, while for others, it may not be so beneficial,” Glazer said.

“For the household, first there is the decrease in the tax brackets. Seven remain, but each is now lower than before. On the face of it, this should benefit everyone. For those who claim the standard deduction, the amounts are now higher, although personal exemptions no longer exist. Here, some will benefit while others won’t. Those who will not are primarily those in states with higher tax rates like Connecticut.  This is because now an individual can only deduct up to $10,000 for local, state and property taxes combined, whereas before there was no cap put into place, meaning that many who would typically itemize their deductions will instead claim the standard deduction, which may feel like a financial loss,” Glazer said.

Glazer has worked at Norwalk Community College since January 2004. He teaches both Principles of Macroeconomics and Principles of Microeconomics courses. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus, teaching courses in both European and American economic history as well as the Economics of Poverty.

Glazer is serving a second two-year term on the state’s Commission on Economic Competitiveness.