Bethel has had the highest increase in property tax rate from 2009 to 2019 of nine local communties surveyed. Bethel's tax rate saw a 46.5% increase over the past 10 years, the highest increase of the nine local communities. Danbury saw the lowest rate increase, a 31.7% increase for the same period. In 2019, Bethel had the second highest mill rate of the nine surveyed communities, just behind Newtown. That is up from third highest in 2009.
The mill rate is the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value. Assessments of real estate are mandated by state law to be reviewed every 5 years and must be set at 70% of market value.
The gap between Bethel and other communty's tax rates seems in many cases to be growing.
Bethel's mill rate was 10% higher than Ridgefield in 2009 and is now 18% higher in 2019, an 80% gap increase.
To put that in real dollar terms, a home owner in 2009 in Bethel with a $300,000 assessed value would have paid $6,732 in taxes. They would have to have a home assessed at $330,000 to pay the same taxes in Ridgefield. In 2019, a Bethel tax payer with a home assessed at $300,000 would pay $9,861 in taxes, and would need a home assessed at $354,950 in Ridgefield to get the same tax bill.
Another way to look at this difference between Bethel and Ridgefield would be to look at homes with similar assessed values in both towns.
A home owner in 2009 in Bethel with a $300,000 assessed value would pay $6,732 in taxes versus paying $6,120 in Ridgefield for a home with the same $300,000 assessed value, a difference of $612 in higher taxes in Bethel. In 2019, a home owner with a $300,000 assessed value would pay $9,861 in taxes versus paying $8,334 in Ridgefield for a home with the same $300,000 assessed value, a difference of $1,527 in higher taxes in Bethel.
The chart below compares the tax on a $300,000 assessed home for each surveyed town versus a $300,000 assessed home in Bethel, for both 2009 and 2019.
In researching this issue, some local leaders indicated that due to re-evaluations many Bethel homeowners saw zero tax increases for this period.
We were unable to verify this claim.
We took a random sample of 6 Bethel homes and reviewed their tax records from 2009 to 2019. The properties ranged in current market value from $225,000 on the low side to $668,266 on the high end. All Bethel homes surveyed saw tax increases for this period. All surveyed homes also saw a decrease in home value during this period. The actual taxes paid rose 18% on average for all 6 Bethel homes from 2009 to 2019 while the average value for all 6 homes dropped 24% for the same period.
We invited all three First Selectmam candidates to comment on this survey, as well as candidates for the Board of Finance.
First Selectman and Democratic candidate for re-election Matthew Knickerbocker said "In many cases tax bills can go down even when the mill rate goes up. Changes in mill rates do not predict changes in actual taxes."
Republican candidate for First Selectman Patricia Rist declined to comment for this article.
Unaffiliated candidate for First Selectman Bill Ochs said "This graph clearly shows that our current First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker is leading the local town ranking at raising taxes for the residents of Bethel. To see Danbury at the low end of this ranking shows what a conservative leader can do for a town. I can bring about this change to the residents of Bethel, if given the opportunity on November 5th. The path Matt has Bethel on is unsustainable for the majority of residents that love our Town."
Board of Finance member and Independent Party candidate for re-election Cynthia McCorkindale said "The emperor has no clothes but he keeps asking us to pay more for it. We need voter support for the Board of Finance to fight these out of control increases. People being hit hard by this know the truth. They can't find an extra $500 every year in their sofa cushions to cover these constant tax increases."
Board of Finance member and Republican candidate for re-election Bryan Terzian said "It demonstrates why it's important to keep an eye on every dollar spent. We just can't keep going on the course that we are. We have to find ways to be more efficient."
We were unable to reach other Board of Finance candidates for comment as of press time.
The mill rates for the 9 surveyed communities were taken from the State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management website (portal.ct.gov/OPM) and are as follows:
|Town ||2009 mill rate ||2019 mill rate||% Change|
|Bethel ||22.44 ||32.87||46.5%|
|Brookfield ||19.47 ||28.34||45.6%|
|Redding ||22.22 ||31.72||42.8%|
|Newtown ||24.00 ||34.24||42.7%|
|Wilton ||20.16 ||28.19||39.8%|
|Ridgefield ||20.40 ||27.78||36.2%|
|Southbury ||21.50 ||29.00||34.9%|
|New Milford ||22.70 ||30.58||34.7%|
|Danbury ||20.96 ||27.60||31.7%|