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Old 12-22-2009, 11:19 AM
 
5 posts, read 47,008 times
Reputation: 11

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hi all,
I've lived in CT on and off for quite sometime (in West Hartford) but when the time has come to start looking for a house I've realized it's not that straightforward. My wife, I and our 2 small kids (3 yo and newborn) are thinking of buying a house/condo in Avon or Farmington or West Hartford. We've excluded Simsbury (due to remoteness) and Glastunbury (bias for the west side of the river). We like WH diversity, size, convenience and charm but there are few important factors for us that would sway away from WH if true and the most important one is public schools.

here are our priorities/dilemmas:
1. I have read pages and pages of reports from CT department of education and came to a conclusion that based on data, Avon seems to have better schools.
Question: Are Avon public schools really better than Farmington or West Hartford?

2. WH mill rate is 37, Avon 23 and Farmington 19.
Question: Does anyone know what we'd get (or don't get) in return for paying these taxes in these 3 different towns?

3. We'd like to buy a place built after 1980 but it seems that houses in WH are rather old and there are not than many newer condos either. It looks that Avon has more to offer. I'm not sure about Farmington.
Question: Does anyone has any insights into the issue of newer constructions.

4. Less crucial but nevertheless important - are there any Jewish communities in Avon and Farmington? I know about WH but not familiar with the other two..


Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you and Happy Holidays!!!

Last edited by subsur; 12-22-2009 at 11:31 AM..
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Old 12-22-2009, 12:02 PM
 
8 posts, read 28,314 times
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#1-

I wouldn't eliminate any of those towns based on the school district. Data used to measure "best" is always going to be standardized test scores. Unfortunately that's the only objective way to measure how good a district is.. So if that's what you are going by, yes, Avon has the top schools - its scores come up higher than both Farmington and WH. However, Farmington and WH have excellent, renowned public schools that are well-known throughout the state based on a number of factors.

#3 - I can't recall many newer houses in WH.. Avon would have more.

#4 - Not sure about Farmington, but I know Avon has a sizeable Jewish population.
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Old 12-22-2009, 12:43 PM
 
Location: Live in NY, work in CT
11,214 posts, read 18,665,843 times
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Regarding #4, I do know that Avon, Farmington, and Simsbury (in addition to W. Hartford, but that one's a lot more obvious) all close the schools for the High Holidays, something that is fairly common in Fairfield County and in the immediate New Haven vicinity, but not elsewhere in CT (or outside the NY metropolitan area except in the "Jewish" suburbs of major cities for that matter......for example my sister lives in the Buffalo, NY area and the only district in that area that does so is the suburb of Williamsville).

When I was in college, I briefly dated a girl who was Jewish who was from Farmington, so there definitely are Jews there, probably more so now since this was over 20 years ago.

The big thing that many here knock about those 3 towns (Avon/Farmington/Simsbury) is the commute since it involves a lot of secondary roads (or at least non-limited access highways) that get a lot of traffic (and when I was up there last summer they were doing a lot of road construction in the area as well). In the thing I was up there for last summer I had a colleague who had to commute to Hartford from Avon (who was Jewish and pretty active in her community, BTW) and she told me with the construction and all it sometimes took her 45 minutes for what I think is like maybe 10 miles.

Good luck and Happy Holidays/New Year back at you!

Last edited by 7 Wishes; 12-22-2009 at 12:52 PM..
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:19 PM
 
5 posts, read 47,008 times
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kap412,
thanks a lot for your input.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kap412 View Post
Data used to measure "best" is always going to be standardized test scores. Unfortunately that's the only objective way to measure how good a district is.
There are other factors like # of people in classrooms, teachers turnover, % of teachers with MA/PhD, etc etc. In lots of these factors Avon is a bit ahead of Farmington and WH. There are a few other parameters that Avon is behind (i.e. # of 8 graders taking high school math).


Quote:
Originally Posted by kap412 View Post
However, Farmington and WH have excellent, renowned public schools that are well-known throughout the state based on a number of factors.
I keep hearing accolades for WH schools and i'd love to believe it but as a scientist i need to see data. I'd love to know what colleges kids go to after various schools, how successful they are after high school, but i don't know where to find these data.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:56 PM
 
Location: Connecticut
34,578 posts, read 56,206,523 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subsur View Post
here are our priorities/dilemmas:
1. I have read pages and pages of reports from CT department of education and came to a conclusion that based on data, Avon seems to have better schools.
Question: Are Avon public schools really better than Farmington or West Hartford?

2. WH mill rate is 37, Avon 23 and Farmington 19.
Question: Does anyone know what we'd get (or don't get) in return for paying these taxes in these 3 different towns?

3. We'd like to buy a place built after 1980 but it seems that houses in WH are rather old and there are not than many newer condos either. It looks that Avon has more to offer. I'm not sure about Farmington.
Question: Does anyone has any insights into the issue of newer constructions.

4. Less crucial but nevertheless important - are there any Jewish communities in Avon and Farmington? I know about WH but not familiar with the other two..
All three towns have excellent schools. The main difference in them is the socio-economic diveristy of each of them. West Hartford is larger and more diverse so while the school programs may be excellent, standardized test scores may be lower. Check out the links below for information on schools:

Strategic School Profiles by District

Strategic School Profiles by School

Also keep in mind that an education goes beyond what is tought in a classroom. Students in a school district like West Hartford with a diverse population may learn more about people from other countries or backgrounds than in a less diverse community like Avon.

I would not be as concerned with the mill rates of each town since mill rates are only part of how taxes are determined. It is better to look at homes in your price range and compare the taxes on those homes to others in your price rnage. You may find that while taxes are lower you will get a small home for the same price or that similar homes pay higher taxes.

By far, West Hartford has the largest Jewish community. The other towns do too but it is no where near as active. It is among the largest and most active in the state. You might consider checking on some of the temples in the towns you are interested in to see if any of them are to your liking before considering a move there. I know people in Simsbury who will travel to West Hartford for services.

You are correct that West Hartford is a more mature suburb but that is part of its charm. Keep in mind that many homes there have been updated so while they may be older they could be in better condition. It is strictly a matter of personal preference. Jay
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:29 PM
 
418 posts, read 1,402,642 times
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Re: Taxes, as Jay says it's hard to compare mill rates directly. Your tax payment is based on both the rate and the assessed value of your home. Some towns assess properties far below their actual market value, which then pushes the mill rate up higher than other towns, who might more accurately assess priorities but tax at a lower mill rate. The actual tax burden in each might be the same for an equivalent property. The state posts "equalized mill rate" lists periodically which consider these differences, and the most recent list I found was from 2006: Avon and Farmington were listed at 14, West Hartford 18, so not too far off from one another.

Also keep in mind that kids going to West Hartford school systems come from more diverse backgrounds, so surely that pushes average test scores lower than in other communities. But lower average test scores don't automatically suggest that the school system does a worse job at educating their students or helping them reach their potential. Coming from a small school district myself, I was impressed with the list of AP courses available to West Hartford high school students- I don't know if Avon or Farmington can offer the same curriculum.
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:52 AM
 
Location: NJ
4,940 posts, read 12,060,192 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by subsur View Post
hi all,


3. We'd like to buy a place built after 1980 but it seems that houses in WH are rather old and there are not than many newer condos either. It looks that Avon has more to offer. I'm not sure about Farmington.
Question: Does anyone has any insights into the issue of newer constructions.
I have family in Farmington so I visit there quite often. There is a lot of new construction on the west side of town. You'll see a lot of new homes (and entirely new streets/developments) off of River Rd. in the Unionville section of town. There is also a lot of new development going on directly off Route 177 near the area of a road called Portage Crossing.
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Old 12-23-2009, 12:35 PM
 
Location: Ithaca NY
286 posts, read 1,113,004 times
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This is much more Farmington focused, just because I've lived there.

1: This is no kind of real data, but I graduated from Farmington High in the late 90's, and I'm friends with 13 alumni on Facebook. Of the 14 of us, 13 graduated college, 9 did some kind of post graduate work. There's an MD, a Ph.D (that's me), one nearly-done JD, and 3 folks more than halfway to their Ph.D's. (And yes, these were smart kids in high school, but none of us were valedictorian or anything. Mostly band geeks.) Slight variations in teacher:student ratios don't really mean that someone can't get an excellent education in any one of those towns. The problems I had with my education there had more to do with being the poor kid in a rich town.

2: No idea, we rented.

3: I know that Farmington does have some newer construction in the Unionville area--the last time my mom and I came through we got lost for lack of our usual landmarks.

4:There's a not-insignificant Jewish population in Farmington but as mentioned upthread I get the sense that the community in West Hartford is much more active.
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Old 12-24-2009, 08:01 AM
 
5 posts, read 47,008 times
Reputation: 11
Thank you to all of you who replied. Your opinions are very appreciated!
Happy Holiday Season!!!
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