Thursday, March 8, 2012


Connecticut Seal

House Bill No. 6475
Public Act No. 05-106
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:
Section 1. Section 7-326 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):
At such meeting, the voters may establish a district for any or all of the following purposes: To extinguish fires, to light streets, to plant and care for shade and ornamental trees, to construct and maintain roads, sidewalks, crosswalks, drains and sewers, to appoint and employ watchmen or police officers, to acquire, construct, maintain and regulate the use of recreational facilities, to plan, lay out, acquire, construct, reconstruct, repair, maintain, supervise and manage a flood or erosion control system, to plan, lay out, acquire, construct, maintain, operate and regulate the use of a community water system, to collect garbage, ashes and all other refuse matter in any portion of such district and provide for the disposal of such matter.......

There are approximately 300 tax districts in the state of Connecticut. Of those roughly 59 provide only fire protection, some are water districts and a large number are recreational districts that create and maintain beaches and provide recreational privileges for their residents. The remainder provide garbage collection, road maintenance and plowing, street lighting and other services that the town either can't or won't provide. 

From my research Farmington Woods appears to be the only tax district in the state that owns a private golf course. As a matter of fact, the district was created to purchase the golf course in the first place around 1985. Of course they provide garbage collection, road maintenance, plowing, street lighting and other services not provided by the town.The advantage for residents is that taxes paid to the district can be written off on tax returns.  The disadvantage is that unlike recreational districts that provide beaches and water amenities for their residents, FW residents must pay a rather large fee to become members of a private course.

This arrangement worked out pretty well when the golf operation was making a profit and the tax district did not have to contribute funds for the upkeep of golf infrastructure. Unfortunately for non-golfing residents the downturn in golf participation not only here at FW, but worldwide, (according to KPMG's Golf Benchmark Survey 2010) is having a negative fiscal effect on the residents who pay the condo fees and district taxes to keep the course operating.

And unfortunately for residents in these uncertain economic times,the district has decided to issue two bonds totaling $4M payable over twenty years ($6.6M with interest) to improve access to the clubhouse and replace the course irrigation system. This is the other thing tax districts can do: issue bonds. Of course that raises taxes, in this case as much as 18%, so that in the future we will be facing an even greater financial burden than we are now. When you consider the declining popularity of golf and the effects of the economic downturn on those who play the game it really begs the question. Why now?

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