“In 1974, heavily pregnant, I moved to Whitneyville from New Haven. Hamden seemed a natural place for Yale faculty to raise a family, with excellent schools and public services and, in the 1980s and 1990s, it didn’t disappoint.
The elementary school, middle school and high school provided a wonderful education to both my children. My son, having completed the high school curriculum, was able to take courses at Yale University during his senior year, with the bill picked up by the Board of Education. My daughter benefited from the extraordinary theater program, helping to teach classes for special education students and winning ensemble prizes at the state drama competition. As she said on one such occasion, “When I saw that all the judges were crying, I knew we’d won.”
Now, decades later, what has happened to Hamden? It is still outstanding, first in its class in Connecticut but, unfortunately, not because of its schools and public services but because it has the highest per capita debt of all the 169 towns in the state.
According to the municipal finance indicators published recently by the state’s Office of Policy and Management, every man, woman and child in Hamden is in debt to the tune of $18,368.
To give you an idea what that means, consider that the per capita debt in Bridgeport is $13,776 and in Hartford it is $11,700. Even New Haven, the second on the list, only has a per capita debt of $15,595.
How do the financial markets view Hamden’s remarkable record of first- (or worst-) in-state? Moody’s has lowered Hamden’s bond rating to Baa3, one grade above “junk,” adjudging the town among the bottom three in Connecticut.
To meet the town’s financial obligations, taxes on homeowners have been raised exorbitantly, with the mil rate now approaching 50. In addition, homeowners have to pay separately for treatment of their wastewater, a service that was included in taxes paid in the 1980s and 90s.