Role of Property Taxes
Contributing to the segregation of Connecticut's towns and school districts is an over-reliance on local property taxes to pay for municipal services — particularly local public education.
Local property taxes play a critical role in funding public schools. In Connecticut, nearly 59% of all education funding comes from local property taxes, and funding local public schools is the most significant cost of most cities and towns.
HORTON V. MESKILL
In 1977, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that an education funding system that allows “property wealthy” towns to spend more on education with less effort is unconstitutional
Amount of Taxable Property
However, the value of taxable property, as well as community wealth, varies greatly across Connecticut's municipalities. As a result, a system has been created where it is easier for wealthier, property rich communities to raise revenue from property taxes — and in turn fund their local public schools — than it is for less affluent or economically disadvantaged communities.
Equalized Net Grand List Per Capita (ENGLPC) is a measure of a town’s taxable property per town resident, and therefore an indicator of the municipality's ability to raise local revenue. In Fairfield, for example, the ENGLPC is over $268,000, but in bordering Bridgeport, the ENGLPC is roughly $77,000. As a result, it is easier for towns with higher ENGLPCs, such as Fairfield, to raise local property tax revenue than it is for towns like Bridgeport that have lower ENGLPCs.
Use the visualization below to see how property wealth varies across Connecticut's communities. Hover over a city or town on the map to view its ENGLPC. To search for a city or town on the map, click on the magnifying glass below the map legend.
Find out how a needs-capacity formula could help address Connecticut's fiscal disparities and more equitably distribute municipal aid
The value of a town's taxable property also impacts the rate at which property in the town is taxed — otherwise known as the town's mill rate. A mill rate refers to how many dollars are taxed for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.
To calculate the property tax of a property, the assessed value of the property is multiplied by the town's mill rate and then divided by 1,000. For example, if a property has an assessed value of $100,000 and is in a municipality with a mill rate of 20 mills, the property tax for that property would be $2,000.
Just like the value of taxable property, however, town mill rates vary greatly across the state. On average, wealthier, property rich communities have lower mill rates. This is because the higher value of properties in these communities make it easier for the town to raise the revenue it needs for local schools and public services without charging higher mill rates.
This is not the case, however, for Connecticut's poorer, higher-need communities, which are also home to a disproportionate amount of the state's Black and Latinx residents. Due to the lower value of their taxable property, Connecticut's less affluent communities frequently have higher mill rates in order to generate the property tax revenue they need to fund their local schools and public services. As a result, residents in communities with higher mill rates have a greater tax burden — by percentage of property value — than residents in communities with lower mill rates.
However, many communities are not able to raise enough revenue from property taxes to support their schools or services, and cannot raise mill rates so high to where the town becomes an unaffordable place to live or own a business. To help with this, the State of Connecticut provides education and municipal aid, but it is frequently not enough to make up for the disparities caused by the state's property tax system.
Use the visualization below to see how mill rates vary across Connecticut's communities. Hover over a city or town on the map to view its mill rate, how much the local and/or regional school district spends per student, and how much of the local and/or regional school district's funding comes from local property tax revenue. To search for a city or town on the map, click on the magnifying glass below the map legend.
Residential property in the city of Hartford is not assessed at the standard rate of 70%. Instead, Hartford's current assessment rate for residential property is 35%. Due to this difference, residential property taxes may be lower in Hartford than the taxes in other municipalities with lower mill rates.