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Old 12-11-2013, 03:06 PM
 
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Hi, I am looking at my job relocating to Wallingford, CT from the Midwest. I am trying to decide where to live in relation to my work (Rt. 5 & Rt 15 area) and after doing a bit of research I've got Wallingford, Cheshire, and Durham on my list. I wasn't considering North Haven but after reading some of the other posts I wonder if I should add that to the mix? I have two children, 7 and 9, so schools are very important to my family. Cost of living also is a factor. I'm not sure if our family will rent or buy immediately (with the idea that we will at least buy within a year) but I would hate to rent in one district if renting is what we end up doing and then move the kids to another school later. We may be looking at a budget of approximately up to $375k for a home and ideally would like 4 bed, 2 1/2 baths, 2 car garage. The size of the town does not matter to us unless it impacts housing market, schools, cost of living.

Based on some of the ratings on greatschools.org and in looking at test scores it seems like Cheshire might be the best for schools but also highest in cost of living. The other towns seem like they are rated well for schools too. Wallingford apparently has lower than average electric rates. Mill rates vary from the 2012 data listed on the CT Office of Policy & Management website - Chesire (27.6), Wallingford (26.22), and Durham (not avail.). However, I found somewhere where Durham's equalized mill rate was 19.19. But that brings up another question, is there a difference between "mill rate" and "equalized mill rate"?

Can you give me any insight/feel into these things about the towns listed above? Would you have a preference, and if so, why? And if you think Wallingford, are there particular schools that are better for elementary/middle school/high school? Thanks in advance for your feedback.
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Old 12-11-2013, 03:47 PM
 
Location: Connecticut
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Here in Connecticut the school districts are pretty small. Most towns have their own school district but a few of the smaller towns combine to form a regional school district. Because of their size, the curriculum offered is pretty uniform so I would not worry as much about which school your kids will go to as to which town you should live in. The towns you mention all have good schools. I do not trust greatschools since I have seen them give poor ratings to some of the best performing schools in the state and good ratings to poorly performing schools.

I would recommend looking at the website below which gives you information on each district. Look for a school district where students perform at or above the state average on the connecticut Mastery and Connecticut Academic Performance Tests.

State Department of Education - CEDaR

You can find homes in your price range in the four towns you mention. I am not sure you will necessarily find the exact type of home you want though. Home prices can be a bit higher here than commonly found in the midwest.

As for which town is best, it is personal preference. Cheshire is a bit more upscale and affluent than the others. Wallingford is a bit more older and working class. Durham is more rural in character and North Haven is more suburban and uniform. Wallingford has a downtown that the others don't offer and is home to an internationally known private school (Choate Rosemary). Durham is known for its annual agricultural fair in the fall. Cheshire has a well known private school (Cheshire Academy) but is also home to a state prison. You cannot go wrong with any of these overall. It is more a matter of which is best suited to your family. Jay
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Old 12-11-2013, 04:55 PM
 
Location: Wallingford, CT
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North Haven's schools are indeed leaps and bounds above Wallingford's, but as Jay mentioned it does have Choate.

Wallingford, however, has vastly cheaper electric because it has its own power plant that services the town. Not only is it incredibly cheap, but the lines are very well maintained, so in the 5 years I've lived here now, we have not lost power for longer than a few minutes, even through both Irene and Sandy and any snow storm.

Durham is nice but a bit too rural for me, personally. Wallingford is larger and more diverse in terms of area. It has a more urban downtown feel, very suburban areas, and also has some more rural areas. Of the towns listed, I believe it's the most affordable. Cheshire and North Haven are very nice, the latter especially being a little more "upscale." If you can afford it, North Haven is great. In any town here though, it will be nearly impossible to rent a 4 bedroom house. I would recommend renting before buying if you can stomach a smaller place to start though, because the towns have very different feels to them, and you may not like which one you end up in first.

Also, both Durham and North Haven have annual fairs in the fall. Durham's is a bit bigger, but also more expensive.
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Old 12-11-2013, 05:39 PM
 
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Durham's mill rate is 32.66 If it matters, Durham is a pretty rural type of town. Shopping is mostly limited to essentials. Very different character than the other towns you have noted. None are large towns, but the others have a higher amenity level.

Wallingford has a cute, walkable in-town center. North Haven will offer the big box stores. All depends on what you want and where you feel comfortable.
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Old 12-11-2013, 05:45 PM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
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All those towns are very good. I find Cheshire a little annoying to get around, as 10 gets painfully slow at times. It's not super convenient to highways, but depending on where you are in the town it might not matter.

Durham is a bit rural/removed, if you want that.

North Haven is pretty well balanced and has good highway access.

I'd throw a few more towns in the mix to consider:

Orange/Woodbridge/Bethany: These 3 towns share a school system. Excellent school system, among the highest ranked in the state. In the case of Orange, a really well rounded town that's very close to conveniences, Milford/West Haven beaches, the train to NYC, New Haven. Woodbridge is also in a nice location. It feels slightly rural, but is very close to New Haven and Orange/Milford for shopping, conveniences, restaurants. A bit more to do in that area than the Cheshire/Wallingford area IMO. The commute would not be bad as you'd rarely encounter traffic on Route 15. Some of the nicest areas of both towns are near 15, which would make it convenient for your commute. Bethany is more like Durham in feel.

Madison/Guilford: If you like a coastal community, these towns are absolutely gorgeous. It might be tough with your budget near the water, but in general these are excellent towns with top ranked schools. They are a little more removed from big shopping and dining, but have excellent quaint/historic town centers and some people like the slower pace. Guilford Green looks like a Norman Rockwell painting. You always have New Haven for shopping/entertainment/dining. You'd be looking at a pretty manageable backroad commute from the north areas of those towns. Given the quality of the schools and the fact that few towns in the state are as beautiful, it might be worth a little extra commute to some. I figured it's worth mentioning.
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Old 12-11-2013, 10:16 PM
 
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We moved to Wallingford in June and looked at all the towns mentioned here. This is my synopsis:

Cheshire has no good access to highways. There is route 10 and 68 and there are single lane roads that can easily backup an cause problems. Very quiet town that shutdowns at 9, not a lot of shopping options unless you travel to Hamden (gag) or other towns. Higher tax rates and that's about it.

North Haven was a serious option for us but it was hard to find a home that fit all our criteria. I personally and playfully call it the land of the raised ranches because there seems to be more in this town that any other. Good schools, OK taxes, as said before big box stores. Overall a good town just couldn't find anything we liked there.

Durham is definitely more farmy than all the others. The yearly festival easily blocks up the main roads and again no houses for the bill. A lot of septic and well property with oil heat, all things we didn't want. Town doesn't shut down cause it never really opens. It's rural CT to me.

Wallingford handed us a great home, great property, low taxes, wallingford electric, good schools, walkable downtown, plenty of main shopping and restaurants to choose from, and highway access to 15 and 91. Route 5 has loads of stores and such and really never gets loaded with traffic. In comparison to say the Post Road in Milford. We did lose power here and a quick call to the electric company said people were already on site of the problem, repair was done within an hour.

So in closing you are looking at good towns, stay away from Hamden as the taxes there alone are enough to steer clear of given what you get in return and the not so nice parts bordering New Haven. My vote is for my town after a summer, fall, and now going into winter, it's picturesque and loaded with charm.
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Old 12-12-2013, 10:20 AM
 
Location: Wallingford, CT
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clutchrider View Post
So in closing you are looking at good towns, stay away from Hamden as the taxes there alone are enough to steer clear of given what you get in return and the not so nice parts bordering New Haven. My vote is for my town after a summer, fall, and now going into winter, it's picturesque and loaded with charm.
This made me think of one thing, if you do want to rent before you buy, Hamden will probably be the best option for renting, but it does have some very bad areas now. If you stay near the Spring Glen section or Whitneyville, you'll be okay. Highway access is a problem though. But if you do want to rent for sure before buying, it'll probably have the most rents available of the towns you're interested in.
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Old 12-12-2013, 10:39 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Csiko View Post
This made me think of one thing, if you do want to rent before you buy, Hamden will probably be the best option for renting, but it does have some very bad areas now. If you stay near the Spring Glen section or Whitneyville, you'll be okay. Highway access is a problem though. But if you do want to rent for sure before buying, it'll probably have the most rents available of the towns you're interested in.
Hamden does have a ton of rental properties of various types from houses and condos, to apartment buildings. I just cannot stand the fact that it goes from nice to crap within a block, there is no middleground unless you count the parkway as the divider line. The traffic on Route 10 and Dixwell are horrendous and it's usually more worthwhile to take backroads whenever possible.

My other big gripe is the taxes, which for various reasons are immensely higher. You talking almost $4k more for my house to be in Hamden than Wallingford. And on a side note, there are not any "bad" areas of Wallingford, just ones that are not oozing with curb appeal. But there is a very healthy mix of middle to upper class homes scattered throughout. Coming from Milford origins I never really gave Route 5 much of a thought, but since I was a kid (20 years ago), it has boomed with plazas, shopping, dining, that will keep you very content.
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Old 12-12-2013, 10:44 AM
 
Location: Coastal Connecticut
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Csiko View Post
This made me think of one thing, if you do want to rent before you buy, Hamden will probably be the best option for renting, but it does have some very bad areas now. If you stay near the Spring Glen section or Whitneyville, you'll be okay. Highway access is a problem though. But if you do want to rent for sure before buying, it'll probably have the most rents available of the towns you're interested in.
Spring Glen/Whitneyville have very good access to 91/15.
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Old 12-12-2013, 05:32 PM
 
4,503 posts, read 4,120,732 times
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Welcome to Connecticut, and good luck with your move.

You can take or leave mill rates - the more important thing is how recently the town has assessed residential property, as mill rates can be adjusted based upon new values. If a town has been re-assessed more recently, the taxes could be higher if the assessments are higher. Of, if a town was last assessed in 2007 right before the market crashed, the taxes could be high now despite a lower mill rate.

I agree on the above about Orange/Woodbridge/Bethany being an excellent possibility with very good schools (Amity school system - District 5 if you're looking up school lists). Woodbridge was cited in The Hartford Courant a year or two back as being the town with the highest percentage of residents that have master's degrees or higher (Yale faculty living there maybe?). Bethany will be like Durham in that it's mostly rural, but you'll find some nice, good sized homes there. Orange has the most amenities of the three. Woodbridge has a lot of nice, unique homes rather than a lot of cookie cutter subdivisions.

For the town high schools (Coginchaug/District 13 encompasses Durham... Amity/District 5 is Bethany/Orange/Woodbrige), these are the last three years of rank in Connecticut of SAT scores for four of the five towns. (So, Amity ranked 16th, 22nd and 24th in the state the last three years.) I'll also qualify that by saying that you can't judge everything about a school by its SAT scores, but it's a start.

Amity - 16, 22, 24
Cheshire - 18, 18, 26
North Haven -82,65,93
Coginchaug - 39,45,27
Sheehan-Wallingford - 43, 71, 72
Hall-Wallingford 75, 76, 79


So, it seems to me that Amity and Cheshire clearly are the best overall school systems in terms of SAT scores, with Coginchaug (Durham/Middlefield) in the middle.

Last edited by NewJeffCT; 12-12-2013 at 05:36 PM.. Reason: clarity
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