By SHERIDAN CYR
The 2017 Grand List, an annual document that assesses the taxable value of the town, shows a grand total of $4,008,041,035. This is the first time the town of Southington has cleared the $4 billion threshold.
“Four billion is a milestone of sorts,” said Town Assessor Brian Lastra. “We were getting close to it for some time back in 2005 and 2006 before the financial mortgage crisis, where we took a step backwards. We’ve seen a significant increase in commercial real estate and personal property since then.”
Lastra said Southington is a suburban, residential town, and even during the financial crisis, homes were still being built. “We were just waiting for commercial construction to pick back up,” he said.
The grand total in 2017 is 1.6 percent higher than in 2016, a $63,124,218 increase.
“I was very pleased with the growth of our 2017 Grand List,” said Town Manager Mark Sciota. “This does not happen by accident. It takes hard work from our town departments.”
The Grand List is broken down into the categories of real estate, motor vehicles and personal property.
Taxable real estate value in Southington increased by just under $41 million, with about 58 percent of that being residential and 42 percent being commercial. This is a substantial jump for commercial business from the last year—an increase of approximately $17 million.
Lastra stated in the Grand List assessment that this is a confirmation of the construction activity that can be seen primarily on Queen and West Street.
“In my 10 years as assessor, this is the highest level of commercial activity I’ve witnessed,” Lastra wrote in the assessment. Additionally, approximately 100 new homes either started or completed construction during the last year, increasing the value of the town’s properties by $20 million.
Economic director Lou Perillo said it’s an interesting concept to observe. “We’re never certain of how it will turn out. It represents a challenge,” he said. “We’re always seeing new homes being built, and now we are glad to see commercial businesses keeping up with that pace.”
Personal property refers to the value of the equipment that a business owns—for example a business’ computers, furniture, fixtures and ovens. That value depreciates over time.
The first year that personal property is assessed, it is worth 95 percent of its original price, explained Lastra. The second year, it decreases to 90 percent, and continues to decrease from there. In order to counter that decrease, a town would need to continue to invite commercial growth. Additionally, businesses are expected to responsibly maintain their properties and invest in new equipment when necessary.
In the same manner that commercial real estate has increased, personal property has increased. Personal property value in the 2017 Grand List increased by 14.25 percent when compared to the previous list. Lastra accredited $20 million of the $29 million total increase to the continued infrastructure buildout by Eversource and Yankee Gas.
The 2017 change in personal property value, a $29 million difference from last year, is only the second double-digit difference in the last 10 years, according to Lastra’s report. The first was in 2014, with a $16.6 million difference. Perillo said this was likely related to The Hartford Insurance Company vacating the buildings on Executive Drive a few years prior, making room for new businesses to come in.
The value of the town’s motor vehicles is the only taxable amount that saw a decrease from last year, dropping 1.56 percent a decrease of about $5.75 million. Lastra said in his Grand List evaluation that this is due to a drop off in the number of new automobiles purchased last year by town taxpayers.
The Grand List numbers were presented to Sciota and the Town Council to be used during this year’s budget process.
“I am thrilled with the increase in the Grand List,” said Town Council chair Chris Palmieri, “It will help offset some of the unknowns we are facing with the state budget.”
The town is facing a difficult budget season as individual departments prepare for heavy cuts in fiscal year 2018-19 in response to the 2017-18 budget still being on the chopping block as the governor prepares to make discretionary cuts.
“I want to thank our town staff and elected officials,” said Palmieri. “It’s because of that synergy of all of us that we’re able to reap the benefits of the Grand List.”
Sciota said that the Grand List is the culmination of a town-wide effort between boards and departments. “It takes a great deal of cooperation between the Town Council and the land use boards, specifically the Planning and Zoning Commission, which establishes an environment of growth for Southington,” he said.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.