At a Price: From Connecticut to North Carolina

Can Connecticut learn anything from less expensive states?

When Beth Console and her husband made the decision to leave South Windsor for Concord, North Carolina, they joined nearly 30,000 other people who are leaving Connecticut each year.

People have a variety of reasons for moving out of the state, often more than one, but the high cost of living here is one of the most common motivators for getting out of town.

“I kinda went kind of kicking and screaming. But I went. Because you go where your kids go,” explained Console.

While the Consoles didn’t move for financial reasons, but rather to be closer to their adult children who moved to North Carolina for work and school, they have benefited greatly by North Carolina’s lower cost of living.

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The Console's property taxes on their similarly sized home went from roughly $8,000 in Connecticut to just under $4,000 in Concord, about a half hour outside of Charlotte.

The family’s tax bills come from the City of Concord and Cabarrus County but they still pay significantly less than they did in Connecticut. Console says the financial benefits took some of the sting out of moving, which she didn’t want to do initially.

And the family hasn't had to go without the government services it grew accustomed to in Connecticut, despite paying lower taxes.

  • The Consoles still get trash pickup once a week and recycling every other week
  • Their new hometown has 19 police officers to 10,000 people, compared to 15 police officers to 10,000 people in South Windsor
  • Their old and new fire departments have similar safety ratings according to the Concord and South Windsor chiefs
  • But they do have less parkland and the student/teacher ratio is higher, 16 to 1 in Concord, compared to 12 to1 in South Windsor

“We couldn't make the comparisons work on how we could be paying more taxes and constantly seeing services cut. It just made no sense, and we see that there is another way,” said Console.

North Carolina uses regional government, organized county by county. Local leaders say that spreads the costs of providing government services out over a larger group of people and allows for streamlined administrative functions. And even though there are cities inside the counties that operate with some level of independence, they divvy up responsibility for the services provided to taxpayers.

For instance, where the Consoles live, Cabarrus County handles schools, tax collection, the health department, voter registration, and ambulance service. Their new hometown of Concord provides police, fire, and trash pickup.

Concord Deputy City Manager Merl Hamilton says this cooperation between city and county helps them avoid overlapping services, and he says, not having unions often drives down the cost of wages and benefits.

“There's a lot of conversation about being lean,” explained Hamilton.

Compare that to Connecticut, where 169 towns and cities, many right on top of one another, often have their own schools, police, fire, and ambulance services. Agencies that number in the hundreds.

In Connecticut, we have more than 100 911 centers, more than 100 law enforcement agencies, hundreds of fire departments and more ambulance companies than cities and towns.

This overlap of services can get expensive and a good portion of the costs are paid through property taxes.

As taxes rise, more people are leaving the Constitution State for less expensive parts of the country.

Bill McCoy, retired director of The Urban Institute at UNC Charlotte, says census figures show 100 people moving to metro Charlotte daily. He says while transplants to North Carolina may have access to fewer parks and arts program, the overall benefit of lower taxes means few move back.

“In surveys of people in North Carolina, whether they like it here or don't like it here, you don't find a lot of people saying, ‘I don't like it,’“ said McCoy,

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