NBC

Perez Defends Tax Hikes as Mayor

Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez raised taxes multiple times during his time as Hartford mayor, leading to some businesses closing due to an increased tax burden.

Even though local property tax rates are enforced differently in Hartford compared to other municipalities, with varying rates of effective tax for corporations, homeowners, and small business owners, with the rate going up, that meant higher prices for businesses, and by extension, consumers.

Perez told NBC Connecticut in a statement, “During the nine years I was Mayor our property tax levy was modestly increased on an average of 3% each year. These increases were to make up for cuts to Hartford aid under two Republican Governors and the needs brought on by the Great Recession.”

“I tried everything I could to steer away from the rocks and just kept coming, you know,” said Darrell Sullivan, the longtime owner of Lena’s Pizza and Sully’s, which were adjacent to each other on Park Street in Hartford, close to the West Hartford line.

Sullivan admits his business faced internal issues including multiple expensive workers’ compensation claims, insurance issues, and overall business struggles. But Sullivan said multiplying tax bills year after year, made making ends meet nearly impossible.

“I kept falling behind,” he said of his tax payments.

“I went from $8,000, $8,600 a year to near $40,000 in a rapid succession you know, my taxes went up 600 percent a year. Perez’s reign really started it.”

Eddie Perez’s first year in office, the city’s property tax mill rate was 52.92. By the time Perez left office, the rate had jumped to 71.79, after peaking at 72.79 in 2009.

The next mayor of Hartford, Pedro Segarra, oversaw the last of the city’s tax increases to the current rate of 74.29.

Perez added, “When I left office we had an 'A' bond rating, our budget was balanced and our pension fund was close to fully funded. During my time in office Hartford was not a candidate for bankruptcy, did not require a state bailout, nor did its debt reach junk bond status.”

Sullivan says he felt the time was right for him to close his business, between tax and other factors. But, he says, he is not happy to see Perez running again.

“I think anybody that’s been caught for corruption should be ineligible to run again for public office,” he said. “You know, I just think that’s the most obvious thing we should put in the books. If you get caught running shenanigans, you shouldn’t have your chance again.”

Perez is seeking to be reelected as Hartford mayor. He is taking on current Mayor Luke Bronin in the September Democratic Primary.

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