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December 19, 2017

Report: Hartford's debt, demographics differentiates it from CT's other major cities

PHOTO | HBJ File The city of Hartford.

Hartford’s high percentage of debt and weak demographics, compared to other major Connecticut cities, make it the most fiscally challenged urban center in the state.

That’s the thrust of a report from Fitch Ratings analysts who say New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury and New Britain, while struggling, aren’t carrying the same burdens as the Capital City.

“Unlike Hartford, most Connecticut cities have substantial inherent budget flexibility and sound

reserves,” Fitch analyst Kevin Dolan notes. “Fitch expects their management to be able to use these tools to maintain financial resilience through the economic cycle.”

Hartford’s debt and pensions represent 45 percent of personal income, compared to 21 percent in New Britain; 31 percent in New Haven; 18 percent in Bridgeport; and 23 percent in Waterbury, the report states.

Overall net debt for Hartford outweighs that of the other cities, too, at $878.5 million. The four other cities’ net debt comes in at $310.3 million in New Britain; $527.9 million in New Haven; $623.9 million in Bridgeport; and $$450.2 million in Waterbury.

Part of the reason for this, Dolan writes, is that Hartford suffers from weak demographics, including a declining population, very high poverty, below-average wealth level, and blight.

The other four cities also rely less on state assistance and have lower property tax rates. Hartford has one of the highest levels of tax-exempt properties in the state at nearly 50 percent, Dolan said.

While the four other cities cited in the report have lower credit ratings and share some of Hartford’s fiscal challenges, Fitch judges them to “still be of sound credit quality.”

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