By Josh LaBella
In her second town hall meeting in as many weeks, Mayor Nancy Rossi answered tough questions from Allingtown residents. The district, which one resident previously described as West Haven’s “red-headed stepchild,” saw a 2.1 percent supplemental district tax increase this year.
For more than two hours, the mayor answered questions that varied heavily in scope: from the tax increase, to speeding, to complaints about light, noise and blight. Rossi said afterwards that she held the meeting after city council members representing Allingtown asked her to hold one for their district. She said a lot of the time Allingtown is forgotten.
“It’s not fair,” said Rossi. “A lot of the time they [the city] do things and they don’t go to Allingtown. I wanted to make sure that we were available.”
Many residents who spoke did have questions about the tax increase. One woman said she could no longer afford to live in the district and was selling her house. She said soon there would be no people left to tax.
“If you don’t sit down and meet with the people that are here in West Haven,” said the woman, “the families – and keep them here. You’re not going to have anybody but college students running around, tearing up the road and not paying anything.”
The woman said she was being run out of Allingtown [due to the taxes]. The mayor responded by saying the city is trying to develop the area to grow the tax base. She pointed out that the city taxes are the same for all of the districts but each have their own taxes to pay for the fire districts.
“The fire district [tax] is high because we have a small district,” said Rossi. “They have an unfunded pension liability – it’s only been funded 22 percent. Now we have someone [the MARB] ordering us to do it [raise taxes on the fire districts] or they are going to take complete control – which is tier four.”
The Municipal Accountability Review Board, or MARB, has ordered the city to do a fire study to see where money can be saved vis-à-vis the fire districts. As the mayor has previously stated, they have control over the budget, the mill rate and any contract over $50,000.
Another topic which residents honed in on was the fact that the University of New Haven is not taxed. One resident called for a moratorium on all non-profits buying properties in the city. Another, Carla Hill, said she was second guessing buying her home and wanted to know what the residents of Allingtown could do to hold UNH accountable.
“UNH doesn’t pay taxes,” said Hill. “I see them continually encroaching from the Post Road, buying people’s properties, and every time they buy someone’s property it isn’t getting taxed.”
Mayor Rossi said UNH gives a voluntary payment to the Allingtown fire district. She said the city also gets PILOT money from the state in lieu of taxes from the university – although that money is diminishing.
Mayor Rossi said they had sheets for people to fill out with questions or concerns that her staff would be following up on. She said hearing peoples issues is the reason she holds the meetings.
“We don’t know everybody’s problem,” said Rossi. “We don’t know every street. We don’t have time to send somebody down every street. However, when you come and tell us, now we’re going to go look. I try very hard to put myself or my staff out there to try and correct problems – because that, to me, is what you got elected to do.”