Hamden: Last on the List
By: Shane Dennehy
Hamden is in the worst financial position out of all of the towns in Connecticut, according to a report by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.
Lauren Garrett, a representative at-large in Hamden, says she saw the report coming.
“Our debt is crippling us,” Garrett said.
Marc Joffe, a senior policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, did a study that ranked all of the town’s and cities in Connecticut based on each town’s 2016 financial report. Joffe gave Hamden a 25, which was the lowest in the rankings and 19 points below Hartford, which is experiencing a financial crisis of its own. Any town that received a rating below 50 in the study is thought to be in “severe financial distress.” The state announced that it would pay off Hartford’s $550 million debt over a 20-year period.
The Yankee Institute for Public Policy notes on its website that its “mission is to promote free-market solutions and smart public policy so that every Connecticut resident is free to succeed.” The Yankee Institute strives to help inform Connecticut residents about what is going on in their state. It is self-described as a “think tank” and the institute takes many conservative viewpoints on topics.
Brad Macdowall, a district representative in Hamden, called the Yankee Institute, “a political lobbying firm whose endgame is to push conservative agendas and conservative candidates.”
According to its 2016 fiscal report, Hamden has a debt of $784.1 million and much of that debt comes from promises that the town made to retiring employees that went unpaid according to the Yankee Institute report.
With its debt continuing to grow, Hamden took out a $125 million pension obligation bond in order to bolster its pension fund in 2014. If the town does not invest in the bond correctly, then it will only create more stress for itself, according to the Yankee Institute report.
As the debt in the town continues to increase, so do the property taxes as the town looks to minimize its debt anyway possible. Local government officials are not happy about having taxes increase.
“Taxes in Hamden are onerous,” representative at-large Marjorie Bonadies commented on the Yankee Institute’s original report. “There are twice as many houses for sale or in foreclosure than any of our neighboring towns.”
Marc E. Fitch, the author of the Yankee Institute article, believes that it would be easy for a Hamden resident to move one town over to North Haven.
“I think the rising property taxes will have an effect on whether people stay or leave. Essentially, a Hamden resident could move one town over to North Haven and probably save thousands per year,” Fitch said.
Fitch thinks that Hamden will face competition from surrounding towns but that it still has things that attract people to the town.
“Hamden has to compete with other towns in the vicinity. Luckily, it has some attractive qualities and Quinnipiac University,” Fitch said.
The state as a whole is struggling with debt, so Hamden may receive minimal help from the state government.
“Hamden can’t count on any help from the state,” Fitch said in an email. “If anything, they should prepare for cutbacks as the state faces four years of projected budget deficits.”
Quinnipiac University named Judy Olian as its new president this past January and local officials say they are looking forward to working with Olian to help rejuvenate the local community.
“One of the things that I’m really feeling positive about is the relationship with the new Quinnipiac president,” said Macdowall, the district representative.
Hamden will continue to search for ways to end its financial struggle but residents will likely continue to see taxes increase according to Bonadies, the representative at-large .
HQ Press reached out to Hamden Mayor Curt B. Leng for comment, but did not get a return call.