Rating the Towns 2013
In the past, we’ve categorized towns by population, lumping, for instance, Greenwich and Bridgeport into the same category because both towns have populations of greater than 50,000. But when people consider where they want to live, they’re far more likely to consider what they can afford than they are to think about how many people live in a particular municipality. With that in mind, the traditional breakdown of towns by population is gone, replaced by a breakdown by the median cost of a home in the first half of 2013.
Previously, upper-income towns dominated the rankings while lower-income towns languished near the bottom, in part because of an apples-to-oranges comparison we were making. This year, we’ve stopped comparing Darien and New Canaan to Ansonia and Seymour, and are instead comparing them to more similar towns such as Fairfield and Westport.
The result, we hope, is a more fair system in which a town’s wealth doesn’t play a disproportionate role in determining its rating.
Because living in a big city remains vastly different than living in a suburban or rural town, we’ve also ranked the state’s eight largest cities in a separate category.
Similarly to years past, we’ve ranked each town by categories that seem important to most people when deciding where to live: The quality of public schools, crime rate, local economy, and leisure and cultural opportunities. This year, we’ve also added a civic engagement category that combines voter turnout in the 2012 election with a town’s access to local news coverage.
There are, of course, plenty of things about every city and town that are impossible to quantify, and others still that are solely a matter of personal preference. We hope, though, that these ratings provide a starting point for anyone looking to move or simply to see how their town compares with others.
• Rating the Cities: Connecticut’s eight largest cities are in a class of their own
• Median Home Price: up to $174,999
• Median Home Price: up to $175,000-$224,999
• Median Home Price: up to $225,000-$299,999
• Median Home Price: $300,000 and up
• Does the Independent Town Still Make Sense? - Connecticut abolished county governments in 1960—but with tougher economic times, would a return to regionalized services and governments be worth considering?
• Growth Spurt - As UConn has seen major growth in the past decade, so has the town of Storrs.
• A Tourist in Hartford - What’s keeping Connecticut’s capital from becoming a destination city?
• Cities at a Crossroad - As life becomes more complicated in the 21st century, the challenges facing cities continue to grow.
• Benevolent Dictator - John DeStefano Jr. has effectively used his political clout to oversee a tremendous amount of change in New Haven.
• Town and city statistics - A snapshot of the numbers we used to formulate our rankings.
• Category breakdown by town - A in-depth look at the statistics in education, crime, community engagement and economy.
• Overall breakdown - All the info for all towns.
THE NUMBERS WE USED
Population totals were reported by the Department of Health in 2012. Median home prices, which include houses and condos, were reported by The Warren Group. The equalized mill rate was calculated by the Office of Policy and Management and included in a town’s PIC score for 2013, using a mill rate from 2011. Best Restaurant awards are compiled by a panel of experts selected by Connecticut Magazine editors. Voter turnout in the 2012 election comes from the Secretary of the State’s office.
Below is a category-by-category breakdown of the criteria:
EDUCATION: This category combines four elements: 2013 Mastery test results for 4th, 6th and 8th grades; results of the 2013 Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT); local SAT scores for 2012; and the 2012 graduation rate for public high school students.
ECONOMY: The strength of the local economy was determined by the 2013 Public Investment Community score, compiled by the Office of Policy and Management, which rates all Connecticut towns under a formula based on population, per capita income, the adjusted equalized grand list per capita, the unemployment rate, the equalized mill rate and per capita aid to children. The higher the number, the more need there is in a community.
CRIME: This category is based on major crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor-vehicle theft) committed in 2012 per 100,000 population, the most recent figures available from the state Department of Public Safety.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: This category combines voter turnout in the 2012 election and the amount of local news coverage available from daily and weekly newspapers, websites and TV and radio stations.
LEISURE/CULTURE: Includes the proximity to state parks and forests; number of colleges and universities; number of restaurants listed in Connecticut Magazine’s 2013 Best Restaurants issue; and number of shops, theaters, museums and concert venues.