June 18, 2013
Written by Macklin Reid, Press Staff
Saturday, 07 April 2012 04:44
The economic erosion of the last five years shows in statistics on Ridgefield — income down, unemployment up, conveyance taxes on real estate sales falling, foreclosures rising.
“The overall theme is caution, and that Ridgefield may be what economists call a ‘lagging indicator’ relative to what looks like a strengthening national recovery,” said Finance Board Chairman Dave Ulmer, who assembled the figures.But the town’s basic fiscal strength and stability are also apparent in numbers and charts Mr. Ulmer presented at the Board of Finance public hearing last week. The grand list is continuing to grow, though slowly. The surplus “fund balance” has also grown.
Most dramatic was the rise in foreclosures: one in 2006; seven in 2007; seven in 2008; 13 in 2009; 18 in 2010; 19 in 2011.
Mr. Ulmer said this week that in the first three months of 2012, there were two foreclosures — which would project out to eight for the year if the first quarter’s pace continued.
Unemployment figures show 452 people, or 3.8% of the workforce, were out of a job back in calendar year 2008. Unemployment has been rising since: 718 or 6.1% in 2009; 713 or 6% in 2010; 733 or 6.2% in 2011.
In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Ulmer added that so far in 2012, unemployment figures look a little better, with the monthly figures down from last year. In 2012 January unemployment was 5.6% in January and 5.5% in February, compared to 6.3% and 6.4% in January and February 2011.
Median household income in Ridgefield, which had been rising, peaked in 2008 and started to decline: 2007, $134,367; 2008, $138,006; 2009, $137,015; 2010, $131,677.
Although figures for 2005 and 2006 were unavailable, median income was $116,266 in 2004.
Income rose 18.7% over the four years from 2004’s $116,266 to the peak of $138,006 in 2008, an average increase of 4.7% a year.
Median income then declined by 0.7% from 2008 to 2009, and dropped 3.9% from 2009 to 2010.
That’s a fall of 4.6% from the peak in 2008 to 2010, the last year there were numbers available from the Connecticut Economic Resource Center.
Income per capita also reversed course in 2008 when the national economy tanked: $72,941 in fiscal year 2006-07; rising to $75,155 in 2007-08; then dropping to $70,366 in 2008-09 and holding the same again in 2009-10; and falling to $67,076 in 2010-11.
Conveyance taxes take a slim percentage of each property’s sale value, and so the town’s collections reflect both the number of sales and the level of prices that properties are fetching.
These price- and volume-sensitive taxes have fallen by more than half in the last five years: $1,062,256 in 2006-07; $860,174 in 2007-08; $546,543 in 2008-09; $692,429 in 2009-10; $687,256 in 2010-11; and Mr. Ulmer projects them to be down to $527,000 — more than $100,000 below the budgeted $635,000 — in the current fiscal year 2011-12.
Mr. Ulmer had a theory as to why Ridgefield’s real estate market has seen a slow recovery.
Prices have fallen in down-county towns that are closer to employment centers, he theorized, and Ridgefield no longer benefits from the shoppers who’d gotten discouraged by what they could or couldn’t afford on the famous Gold Coast. Not so many people come north looking for better deals.
“People with jobs in lower Fairfield County can find ‘better’ value in Darien and New Canaan, and don’t have to commute to Ridgefield,” Mr. Ulmer said. “So we will not make a strong housing recovery until after those places do.”
Still, the town’s tax base has grown steadily. The grand list was $5.3 billion ($5,295,810,000) in fiscal year 2006-07 and increased every year to more than $5.6 billion ($5,602,284,000) in 2012-13.
The annual percentage growth in the tax base hit a low for the period in 2010-11 and the pace of growth has been picking up since then.
Grand list growth was 1.37% in 2007-08; 1.33% in 2008-09; 1.08% in 2009-10; 0.35% in 2010-11; 0.64% in 2011-12; 0.89% for 2012-13.
Town taxes has been increasing every year, but the “mill rate” had been going up by different percentages. The tax increase is 1% for the current 2011-12 fiscal year; 2% for the previous 2010-11 year; 0.5% for 2009-10; 1.9% for 2008-09; 2.6% for 2007-08; 3.5% for 2006-07; and 6.4% back in 2005-06.
The amount of money saved up in the fund balance is growing — even without the $4.3 million from CL&P’s refund.
Mr. Ulmer’s figures show it varying, both in total dollars and as a percentage of budget expenditures, over the last decade.
A decade ago the 2001-02 year started with a fund balance of $4.9 million, which was 6.5% of the town budget. That rose to over $9 million last June, 7.3% of 2011-12 budget.
If the $4.3 million CL&P refund and more than $500,000 Boehringer Ingelheim building permit fee are counted in the fund balance, it would rise to $14.4 million, or 11.4% of budget.
But the finance board decided Wednesday to use most of the refund to cut taxes.
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