ROCKY HILL – All eyes were on Hartford’s mayor inside Rocky Hill Town Hall Monday night. Mayor Luke Bronin visited Rocky Hill as part of a series of meetings he’s holding about regionalization in Hartford’s neighboring towns.
He’s asking towns to consider sharing services and asking for their support as he lobbies the state for help. His message is that surrounding towns and the entire state have a stake in how the Capital City does.
“A strong Hartford means a stronger region, including Rocky Hill. And a dying Hartford means a dying region, including Rocky Hill,” said Bronin during his presentation.
Right now, Hartford isn’t in a position of strength. The city is facing a $50 million budget shortfall next year. Bronin said property taxes are the city’s only major source of revenue and the tax base isn’t strong enough to support Hartford’s essential services.
Bronin said, “We can’t cut or tax our way out of this problem. So we, as a state, have to face this decision about what is the future of our Capital City.”
“I think it’s really important to stress the point that if we’re going to grow as a state you have to have cities that are engines of growth. That's what is serving as the driver of growth in other states across this country and it’s one of the reasons that we're lagging here in Connecticut,” he said.
Bronin spent two hours in Rocky Hill answering questions from residents.
Some were not buying his pitch that this was anyone else’s problem to fix. Others questioned what exactly he’s looking for from towns like Rocky Hill.
Bronin specifically pointed out his desire to see a fully funded PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes). This would allow Hartford to get paid for otherwise tax-exempt properties in the city, including state buildings.
He said he’d like residents’ support as he asks state lawmakers to fully fund the program next session. State Sen. Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) was in the audience and said the state does not have the money to do so.
“There’s no question that there’s going to be a debate next year. There’s going to be a debate about whether we can afford to not make those kinds of investments. In my case, it would be that we can’t,” said Bronin.
Bronin visited West Hartford last week. He plans to make stops in Bloomfield, Windsor and Simsbury next.