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2/24/2014 - A Message from Mayor Finch re: USA Today Trend Story

Once again, media outlets have latched on to a study prepared by a staffer who works for the District of Columbia to show how Washington, D.C.’s effective tax rate measures up favorably against other cities. Very little has changed in this year’s version of the study from last year’s study so I will reiterate many of the same facts from a statement I released last year when a prominent national tax preparation company ran a blog post regarding this very same study.

Much has been made of the USA Today trend story targeting the “10 Most Taxed Cities in America.” It’s the unfortunate fact of the digital world we live in that these “misleading” trend stories catch the eye of the reader and the pundit without any proper research or follow-up.

Simply put, the USA Today story which was a reprint from a post on financial news blog “24/7 Wall Street,” and which was picked up by “Only in Bridgeport,” is misleading and inaccurate in its portrayal of Bridgeport as the most highly taxed city in the United States.

I don’t dispute that our residents pay a lot of taxes–the state of Connecticut bases its revenues on an overreliance on property taxes, making it one of the more highly taxed states in the U.S. For cities like Bridgeport, which is one of the smallest municipalities in the country and the hub of nonprofit services such as hospitals, colleges, courts and jails, it means that we depend on state reimbursements to make up for lost revenues.

That said, to list Bridgeport as the most highly taxed city in the United States is simply misleading. Additionally, this study relies on flawed information:

The study is using Fairfield County home values, which includes some of the wealthiest towns in the country for their data on Bridgeport home values. The article in USA Today notes “the metro area, which includes affluent Fairfield County, is wealthier than much of the U.S. and was used to calculate home values and property burdens by the Office of Revenue Analysis. More than 20% of households had an annual income of at least $200,000, more than any other metro area reviewed.”

USA Today’s False Claims: This study is based on a hypothetical family of three making $50,000 owning a home valued at $252,627, a family of three making $75,000 owning a home valued at $378,941, a family of three making $100,000 owning a home valued at $505,254 and a family of three making $150,000 owning a home valued at $757,881.

Fact: This study rests on an income-to-home values that one would be hard-pressed to find in the city of Bridgeport. Median income of a Bridgeport resident is $38,000. The average home is valued at $150,500.

USA Today’s False Claims: Average Bridgeport homeowner’s tax bill is $16,333

Fact: Average Bridgeport homeowner’s tax bill is $6,430

This study takes into account more than property and motor vehicle taxes. It also includes gasoline, sales taxes, motor vehicle registration fees and state income tax–items over which the City has no direct control.

USA Today is not even close to accurate in any of its research or assumptions. Bridgeport is not even the most taxed city in our state. Hartford, Waterbury, Naugatuck, New Britain, East Hartford, and Manchester all have higher mil rates than Bridgeport. According to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), Bridgeport’s per-capita tax is 24 percent less than the state average.

In 2013, “24/7 Wall Street,” the same publication that ran this inaccurate trend story also ran a story claiming that Bridgeport was ranked the third richest city in the nation–a claim we know to be untrue.

Our residents are of modest means and work hard to afford what they have here in the city of Bridgeport. During my tenure, we have worked very diligently to reduce our expenditures and control all the costs we are able to, especially during this very challenging budget cycle.

We have made great progress in the city during the past five years–restoring credibility and financial stability to city government and expanding economic development.

Rather than focusing on the flawed national “trend” stories that are misleading in order to gain attention, I urge my fellow residents to unite in contacting their state legislators to demand they find a better way to cut the state’s budget, not add another more unrealistic burden to our taxpayers. It’s my hope that USA Today, “24/7 Wall Street” and “Only in Bridgeport” and other media outlets, will still stop using this misleading information, as attractive or sensational as it may be, to further its own goals at the expense of the cities it misrepresents.