How Do Suburbanites (Mis)understand PILOT?

Our survey asked participants their opinions of PILOT following a brief description of the program. We found that people were generally unaware of PILOT’s existence. In fact, some thought it was a new  program that had been recently introduced.

None of the focus group and interview participants were familiar with the program, though 36% of survey participants said they were already familiar with PILOT. The quotes below from both the interviews and survey demonstrate the major areas of concern about the PILOT program. 

Confusing state government and municipal government


Misunderstanding different levels of government proved a major barrier to understanding the PILOT program.

“I have a problem with the state paying itself taxes.” (Survey participant)

“Why would [the government] pay [itself]?” (West Hartford resident)

[In response to a general question about Hartford’s local government]: “I’m worried that I’m confusing this with the state government. ” (Glastonbury resident #1) 

[In response to a general question about Hartford’s local government]: “I think it is easy to get it mixed up between state and local…But I don’t know, it’s one of those things that doesn’t affect my day to day life so, I don’t have huge opinion on [Hartford’s municipal government].” (Glastonbury resident #2)

Concerns about Connecticut’s budget


Out of concern for Connecticut’s budget issues, people doubted whether fully funding PILOT would be financially possible. People also expressed concern about whether fully funding PILOT would have a negative impact on other state-funded programs, and wondered if PILOT should take priority.

“But with the State broke, how [are] they adding funding to get to full funding [of PILOT]?” (Survey participant)

“Where does the money from the state come from?” (Survey participant)

“Where’s the money coming from? State doesn’t have any money. If they did have the money, I think it’s good. They should be doing that.” (Simsbury resident)

“While it seems like a reasonable program under normal circumstances, the state of [Connecticut] is on a path to bankruptcy so where will the funds for PILOT come from? Allowing budget deficits to continue is not sustainable.” (Survey participant)

“What other programs take a hit?” (Glastonbury resident) 

Frustrated with Hartford seeking financial assistance from suburbs


With recent news of the “Hartford bailout” likely prevalent in their minds, participants expressed skepticism about the financial feasibility of the program.

“Poor government management of tax revenue today results in waste. Should we give them more to waste?” (Survey participant)

“Hartford’s fiscal mismanagement [is costing] neighboring towns.” (Survey participant)

“Yet again, the ’burbs are bailing Hartford out.” (Survey participant)

“The city of Hartford has recklessly spent for years as has the State in general. Funding the PILOT takes away from another area and or other cities / towns. The only thing CT has going for it right now is the suburbs with good schools. The more cities like Hartford rely on these suburbs to subsidize them, the less attractive they become and force people to leave the state, only furthering the decline. We have a spending problem.” (Survey participant)

Support for PILOT “in theory”


Participants sometimes supported the program “in theory,” meaning they agreed with the logic of Connecticut paying cities for state-owned buildings. They often followed this agreement with statements of trepidation,  unwilling to fully support the program.

“How much of a priority is this? And what will it really achieve for the state as a whole? I can imagine there will be a lot of positive things by giving those cities more money in order to thrive better. That could make the whole state thrive as a result.” (Glastonbury resident)

“Having more money would benefit the citizens of Hartford. To me, that would be the reason. But, when you come after people’s pocketbooks, they have a way of changing their minds. At some theoretical level, I get it. I would probably support greater funding. But when you go to the wealthier towns, people want to hold onto their cash.” (Glastonbury resident)

“If you have specific [redistribution plans], like this program, you know obviously, as a West Hartford resident, I’m in theory benefiting from state government operations, right? So I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be split evenly across [cities]? That makes sense to me. But I would think people’s opposition would be some of this backlash that was seen last year [in response to Hartford seeking financial relief from the state and other towns].” (West Hartford resident #1)

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