Among Connecticut cities and towns, the wealthiest are the big spenders

Among Connecticut cities and towns, the wealthiest are the big spenders

Keith M. Phaneuf and Clarice Silber, CT Mirror, May 30, 2018. Available Here 

This is the second article in an occasional series exploring wealth and income inequality in Connecticut and its impact on a state struggling to cope with massive debt. Read the first article here.

When Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin appealed for help to save his municipality from bankruptcy, one response he faced was that the capital city’s big-spending ways had come home to roost.

The perception that Connecticut’s cities, facing struggling schools, poverty, crime and heavily traveled roads, easily outspend their suburban and rural neighbors can be found both around the capital city and elsewhere in the state.

But when municipal spending is examined on a per capita basis, it’s Connecticut’s suburbs — and particularly those in Fairfield County — that lead the way in spending.

Rather than a greater need for government services, it is the availability of wealth, tax reform advocates say, that determines which communities will spend the most.

More importantly, shrinking state aid, a lack of revenue diversity and an over-reliance on a regressive property tax system threaten to widen tremendous disparities that already exist between Connecticut’s poorest and richest communities.

“We’re creating social pathologies in Connecticut,” said University of Connecticut economist Fred Carstensen. “By spending so little in the cities, it forces you to reallocate toward police and social services rather than investing in your future. That means less effectiveness in education.”

“How do we attract job growth into the city when you’re already fighting with a hand behind your back because you have a higher mill rate than your surrounding towns, you have less services than your surrounding towns, you have a higher crime rate than your surrounding towns?” asked Rep. Steven J. Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport.

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