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Letter: Arbor Haven Proposal Greatly Exaggerates Tax Revenues

The Arbor Haven proposal estimates net revenue to the town of $1.28 million per year.  A closer review shows this estimate exaggerates the expected tax revenues by $825,000 per year.  Comparing Arbor Haven’s tax estimates to taxes paid for similar sized homes in Woodbridge shows huge discrepancies.  As an example, the developer estimates $19,247 in yearly tax revenues for a 2000 sq ft home and $21,171 for a 3000 sq ft home!  The average in Woodbridge is only $11,000 and $13,200 respectively!  The developer bases its tax revenue calculations on sales price; however, that is not how tax assessments are calculated.  The following details how I arrived at my estimates.

My calculation for tax revenues were approximated by sampling the town assessor’s records for the size of homes proposed to be built and compared that to the estimates in the Arbor Haven proposal.  Arbor Haven stated that 2-bedroom homes would be about 2,000 sq ft, 3 bedrooms about 3,000 sq ft and 4 bedrooms about 4000+ sq ft.  I sampled the assessor’s tax records for at least 30 homes in each of those size categories for a total of 95 homes to determine the average tax paid for each size category.  The homes selected were from various areas of town on the most upscale streets in those areas.  When applying my estimates to the quantity of houses specified in the Arbor Haven proposal, I found the tax revenues were overestimated by approximately $825,000 per year.  I could only find one home out of 95 sampled to match the average estimated by Arbor Haven!  This correction alone reduces the estimated net revenue to the town to $455,000 per year.  I reviewed this process with our town assessor and she agreed that this was a reasonable approach to estimate the expected taxes.

Additionally, costs in the proposal are greatly underestimated.  The proposal uses country wide averages for the number of additional children expected to be added to our schools.  People are attracted to Woodbridge because of the schools, not the night life, restaurants or shopping…we have none!  The number of expected school children should be based on recent demographic history for new residents to Woodbridge.  We are also risking having to expand the Beecher Road school system.  Having to expand the school and add staff would far exceed any excess dollars available from retiring the CCW debt.

The Arbor Haven proposal also contains another major error as it does not include costs for Fire, Police, roads, library, and general administration.  The Woodbridge Finance Director estimates this cost to be approximately $2,000 per person per year.  Even a minimum of 300 extra residents would add $600,000 in yearly expenses.  When cost estimates are adjusted to account for these additional expenses and a realistic number of school children, I believe the net deficit from this project could be as high as $1million per year.

Remember these are estimates.  There is nothing to prevent the mix of housing to change.  If the tax revenues were to go down and expenses go up even slightly. this project would generate an even larger annual deficit.  The Selectwoman decided to support the Arbor Haven proposal because she received many calls and e-mails from residents in favor of this proposition; however, those opinions are ill informed.  She also claims we need to expand the Grand List to combat rising costs.  This project is not doing that.  Before a proposal can be put to referendum, we need a complete and accurate financial impact assessment performed by an independent, non biased source.  Arbor Haven is not that source.  It is not fair to expect the town residents to make such an impactful decision based on such an imprecise financial analysis.

Lou Ruotolo

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