Monday night, Waterford’s Representative Town Meeting postponed a vote on a proposed ordinance that would give property tax breaks for structures used "exclusively in farming."
RTM members voiced no concerns with the ordinance, but postponed the vote until the group’s February meeting because the proposal did not come with the proper paperwork. The ordinance would mean farmers would not pay property taxes on the first $100,000 of assessed value on structures used exclusively for farming.
“This will have minimal tax impact to the town,” RTM member and chairman of the RTM’s Legislative and Administrative Standing Committee Craig Merriman said. “And this might help these people grow their business.”
The standing committee has already approved the ordinance and it just requires approval from the RTM before it is finalized. Merriman said at most five properties would qualify for this tax exemption, and it might only be one, and it would mean the town would collect about $1,500 less in taxes next year at most.
He added that farmland is far more financially beneficial to the town than residential properties and if this spurs more farms in town it would be good for Waterford taxpayers. The reason is farmland does not come with associated educational costs associated with residential properties, he said.
Reasons for the Ordinance
Merriman said Robert and Teresa Schacht, owners of Hunts Brook Farm, sent a letter to the town asking for the exemption. The proposal went to the RTM’s Legislative and Administrative Committee, where Merriman consulted with the town attorney and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which both said such ordinances are common.
An ordinance was drawn up saying that farmers would not pay property taxes on the first $100,000 of assessed value on structures dedicated solely to farming, according to the ordinance. The building must be used “exclusively in farming…., or for any building used to provide housing for seasonal employees of such famer,” according to the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance says to qualify, the farmer or farmers must have derived at least $15,000 of income from the farm or spent $15,000 on the farm, according to the ordinance. A farmer’s home would not qualify for the exemption, according to the ordinance.
If passed, the exemptions would take effect on the Grand List of Oct. 1, 2013.
Why it Wasn’t Passed
RTM member Ted Olynciw said he agreed with the ordinance but could not pass it because the Legislative and Administration Standing Committee did not submit a written report on the reasons for the new ordinance, per RTM rules. The RTM unanimously agreed to postpone the vote until the February meeting, when presumably the committee would submit a report explaining the new ordinance.