Connecticut Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, like most Democrats, is ignoring the real solution to halt rising property taxes, unfunded mandates.  The Speaker’s latest stab at property tax relief for burdened municipalities is to employ the Democrats usual blueprint, create more “revenue streams.”   This time he wants private colleges – notice private colleges not public colleges – and non-profit hospitals to “negotiate” property taxes with the municipalities in which they are located.  He has two bills to address this issue, winding through the Connecticut legislature.   Currently, those entities are exempt from paying property taxes.

The real problem, however, are those Democrat-inspired unfunded mandates, that most recently were put on full display at a Torrington Board of Education meeting.

The latest Torrington school budget proposal will increase education spending in cash-strapped Torrington to $70.8 million.  The school superintendent wants to cut the middle school sports program, an annual savings of $50,000.  Always an emotional issue, cutting sports brought out the Hartford-area TV stations to cover the board hearing Monday night. However, one board of ed member, Fiona Cappabianca, had the courage to bring up the real problem behind never-ending education budget hikes, that are passed along to the local taxpayer in the form of higher property taxes, special education, yet another unfunded mandate.

“That’s the real lion in our budget, and we cannot continue to pay for special education mandated costs on the backs of other kids in the school district.  By no means do I mean these kids do not need to be educated, but there comes a point were you cannot spend $250,000 on one child and $5,000 on another,” Cappabianca said.  According to the Republican-American newspaper, Cappabianca’s comments “prompted a round of applause from the 30-plus people in the audience.”

Sadly, Cappabianca’s $250,000 example is more the rule rather than exception across Connecticut’s public school districts, sending property taxes into an upward spiral.

Don’t expect Sharkey and his party to tackle the real problem, however.  His DemocrBrendan Sharkeyatic stalwarts are too beholden to education’s campaign contributions to hasten such a dramatic change, especially in an election year.  Better to target two more “revenue streams” in hospitals and private colleges.  Let them pass the increased costs along to the consumer.   Let them take the public criticism, while Sharkey and his minions bask in the talking points of “having done something” to address the Connecticut’s property tax issue.


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    Sharkey has long been one of the legislature’s most vocal advocates for reform of a municipal finance system that relies heavily on revenues from property taxes – a burden that falls heaviest on middle-income households and small businesses, particularly in cities.

    Sharkey has said certain major expenses, particularly special education costs, could be provided at great savings if removed from 169 cities and towns and transferred to the state.

    For example, if the state were to cover the full, $1.8 billion price tag for special education – as estimated by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities – “that may mean taxes have to get raised, state taxes.”

    But the speaker quickly added that only could happen “so that local taxes could drop.”

    And to ensure that tradeoff happens, legislators likely would have to break with strong historic precedent and order caps, or some other control, on local taxes, he said.

    “That’s certainly controversial,” Sharkey told reporters after the forum. He added that there is no way politically to provide communities with a budget windfall – such as the removal of special education costs – without ensuring local taxpayers benefit from it.