By Anne Pallivathuckal
ENFIELD - Unhappy with a proposal to modify the town's tax-abatement agreement with the Enfield Federal Savings and Loan Association, the Town Council on Tuesday again delayed a vote on the proposal.
Council members asked town officials to draft a revised proposal that would reduce the abatement in proportion to the reduction in the number of jobs the bank is creating in town.
The council had tabled the issue once before, at a special meeting in August because not all the council members were present.
The proposal the council was to vote on Tuesday would have reduced the duration of the agreement, approved by the council in 2005, from seven years to four.
It also called for the bank to pay property taxes on 50 percent of its new building's assessed value during the first year of the agreement, the fiscal year that starts next July 1. The building is assessed at $1.9 million, which like all Connecticut property-tax assessments, is 70 percent of the building's appraised "fair market value."
During the next two years, taxes would have been paid on 41 percent of the building's assessed value, then 37 percent in the final year.
Enfield Federal, operated by New England Bancshares Inc., built the 19,051-square-foot, two-story building on the corner of Elm and Enfield Streets.
Under the original agreement, property taxes would have been paid on 30 percent of the building's assessed value during the first year of the agreement. During the next six years, that percentage would have increased steadily to 35, 45, 55, 65, 75, and 80 percent of the assessed value.
Towns use tax abatements to entice economic development and job growth.
The original tax abatement agreement called for Enfield Federal to add 39 full-time positions over the course of the agreement.
But after the agreement was approved, bank officials revealed that the new positions would be spread over various branches and offices, including those in other towns.
Now bank officials have made a commitment to creating 21 new full-time positions in the new building at 855 Enfield St.
Mayor Patrick L. Tallarita and Councilmen Douglas Maxellon and William Ragno disqualified themselves from discussing and voting on the proposal. Maxellon holds stock in the bank, and Tallarita's sister, state Rep. Kathy Tallarita, D-Enfield, is a bank employee.
Ragno works at Rockville Bank.
Council members were divided on the proposal to modify the tax abatement.
Deputy Mayor Kenneth Hilinski said he supported the modified agreement, citing concerns about the effect on the town's future economic development if the council didn't pass it.
Councilman Scott Kaupin, the Republican minority leader, said that he supported the modified proposal reluctantly. Kaupin said that the whole situation has been a "debacle," adding that no future abatement should come before the council after the fact.
Councilman Ken Nelson said he supported the original agreement. But since there was a miscommunication between town and bank officials about the number of jobs being created at the Enfield branch, Nelson argued, the tax break should be modified proportionately to the reduced number of jobs being created.
"I think that's fair as can be," Nelson said, adding that he couldn't support the proposal as it was written.
Council members William "Red" Edgar and Brian Peruta said that they couldn't support the modified proposal because it is a major change in policy.
If the council modified the original agreement, Edgar said, "then it takes the teeth out of the employment issue of every abatement we've given."
Council members William Lee, Cynthia Mangini, and Patrick Crowley supported the proposal, with Crowley arguing that the modified proposal is just rectifying a mistake that had been made due to miscommunication.
"We made a mistake. Let's fix it," Crowley said.
Nelson moved to table the issue, but the motion initially failed because six votes are needed and only five council members voted in favor. But Crowley then reconsidered his "no" vote, and a second motion to table the issue passed unanimously.