A Referendum on the Way in West Hartford?

According to an article today in the Hartford Courant, the West Hartford Taxpayers Association (WHTA) is about 400 signatures away from forcing a referendum on the recently adopted town budget.

While I understand the concern that property taxes will rise by approximately 6.6% for all West Hartford homeowners, I don’t believe cutting the budget is the way to go. West Hartford draws and retains residents because of the perception of excellent services and the public school system it offers. Every weekend I see evidence of this when people from Bloomfield, New Britain, Newington, etc. flood open houses. The reason they are looking to move? “I want my kids to go to the West Hartford schools.”

If the WHTA is successful in collecting the necessary signatures, their recommendation will be to cap the budget at increases of no more than 2.5% each year. Since inflation is typically 2.5-3%, essentially they are suggesting that the town remain at status quo and just grow with inflation. However, the West Hartford school system cannot afford to shift to status quo. Since 1996, the WH public schools have seen total enrollment increase by 16.3%. Additionally, the district faces the challenge of 18% of students with English as a second language and 12% of the students qualifying for special education programs. The result of capping the budget increase would be to reduce the spending on the bulk of the students to provide necessary special services. If West Hartford wishes to maintain its reputation regarding public schools, then it needs to continue investing in the education of its youngsters. That will not be achieved by arbitrarily capping the budget.

Real Estate Entrepreneurs Seminar- May 24

I’m a member of HYPE, the Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs group, which is an initiative of the MetroHartford Alliance. Throughout the year they host a variety of forums and seminars geared towards financial planning, investing, and home buying. On May 24 they are hosting a Real Estate Entrepreneurs seminar. It will be a panel of successful real estate investors participating in a moderated discussion and answering questions from the audience. This will be a great opportunity to learn tips and techniques from some of the best investors in the area.

More details are to follow. If you join HYPE here (it’s free), you will then receive further information on this seminar and other activities that might be of interest. I’d encourage you to join. It’s a great way to network with young professionals in the area and attend informative discussions throughout the year.

Shrinking Cities

New England’s “Rising Star” has several initiatives underway to promote economic growth and increase home ownership. I’ll be writing about some of these projects and programs in future posts. In the meantime, I came across an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal Online that talks about a very different strategy, purposely planning to shrink a city.

According to the article, Youngstown, Ohio has seen its population decline by 60% over the last fifty years. Heavily focused on the steel industry, Youngstown saw most of its steel mills close during the industry downturn in the 1980s. Tens of thousands of jobs left with the mill closures. Since then, Youngstown has been plagued with blight and abandonment. Over a thousand homes, businesses, schools, and other structures have simply been abandoned. In order for Youngstown to survive, the city planner and other city officials came up with a unique and controversial plan to shrink the tax base by razing empty structures in order to create more green space, reducing infrastructure and services accordingly.

I found this article refreshing. So many times we see cities trying to fight economic cycles with a short term view and rose colored glasses. It is impossible for every US city to grow at the same rate, yet we see declining cities continue to push for growth when it may not be the financially responsible thing to do. Just like a business, a city must reevaluate its strategic plan when faced with new economic challenges. Continuing to do the same thing and expect different results is foolish and naive. Transforming from a struggling larger city to a thriving smaller town should be viewed as a responsible way of using taxpayer dollars and safe guarding for future generations.

Slimy Realtors

Hopefully you’ve never encountered a Realtor like this… www.tedtruitt.com

It’s hysterical, but not offensive. Make sure your sound is turned on. Thanks to the Virginia Association of Realtors for this gem.

Newington Ridge Town Homes

Yesterday a client and I visited the Newington Ridge town homes, a new Toll Brothers community of 72 town homes off of Routes 5 and 15 in Newington. Sales of the first phase are moving quickly and they will be deciding in the next few days if they will continue construction to build out the entire 72 units.

Newington Ridge offers five different floor plans, with 2 and 3 bedrooms, an option of the master bedroom on the first or second floor, and a standard 2.5 baths. While floor plans are somewhat fixed, I was impressed with the flexible options available to meet buyer’s needs. For example, if a buyer wants a master bath with a tub and shower, some plans were flexible enough to accommodate this.

Floor plans are open and airy. The square footage ranges from 1520 to 2298 square feet, depending on the model. Base pricing for the homes we saw ranged from $282,975 to $350,975. The features in the base models are well appointed, with additional trim packages and extras available that move towards the extravagant. It seems that any buyer’s needs could be met.

Finally, I would like to mention the helpful staff at the community. We were escorted through various models, both finished and under construction, so my client could see all of the options available. Our guide mentioned how they were able to alter various units to meet specific buyer needs. It’s always refreshing to see that the cookie cutter approach is not taken and client’s needs and wants are heard and can be realized.

I would recommend visiting this town home community if you are looking for newer construction in the Hartford area.