Taxes go up as state contribution falls

by JAMILA YOUNG

STAFF WRITER

Bristol property owners are no strangers to increased taxes, but Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said the increases are due to a lack of funding from the state, which in turn means Bristol has to make up the loss by raising taxes.

“The taxation system is broken, and the burden in falling on the property owners,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “I am demanding more from property owners because I’m not getting what I need from the state. Things are pretty good here, but it’s the day-to-day operational piece that continues to take the hit because of what happens and doesn’t happen in Hartford.”

Zoppo-Sassu said the city roads are suffering because Bristol is not receiving the amount of transportation dollars that the city once was, so municipality has to pay for it, and balance between what it does every year.

Bristol’s sole Democratic state representative Chris Ziogas said the money the state gives depends on how much money is budgeted every year. But funding was steady for education, and Bristol is lucky with what they received from the state, he said.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released a report on Connecticut’s state and local pension liability, and discovered that the cost was greater than what was anticipated, $124,952,268,277 as of June 2018, which breaks down into $82.225 billion in unfunded state pensions, and $14,297 billion in unfunded local pensions, and $30 billion in state, local, and pension obligation bonds.

Bristol is doing well with its pension funding. They have a $660 million pension fund that is raised from investments and employee contributions.

“We are over-funded in terms of our pension liability. The city does not have to make contributions into the fund because it’s so flush, and we don’t have any worries there,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “We take it very seriously. We continue to manage that pension fund, and we consider it a huge asset, and one that our employees have worked hard to have in their retirement.”

“We invested, and we did very well over 40 years since we’ve had financial managers come in; we’ve invested in the market as opposed to just parking our money in a savings account at a local bank,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “The fund grew, and now we’re the owners of this asset that is going to benefit the city because it is a great reflection on our bond rating; it’s a reflection of strong financial management and controls, so when people come and grade the city, they take that into consideration.”

Ziogas said that most cities should be investing pension funds. Bristol was ahead of the game because it invested in the stock market in 1981, said Ziogas.

“The state could take a lesson from Bristol,” said Ziogas.