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Northeastern CT Town Leaders Struggle With Creating Firm Budgets This Year

Northeastern CT Town Leaders Struggle With Creating Firm Budgets This Year

There was an air of desperation during Wednesday’s gathering of northeastern Connecticut town leaders as they discussed the difficulties of crafting municipal budgets in a year that doesn’t fit any previous patterns.

The Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments held a special meeting with Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a group that lobbies with lawmakers on behalf of the state’s towns and cities.

DeLong said legislators from both parties have seemed more focused on politics than policy reform recently, even while struggling to address a $1.7 billion state deficit for 2017-18.

“We have a broken system and all anyone wants to fight about is who pays for it, not how to fix it,” DeLong said. “The governor is looking to push costs down to towns and towns are saying that is not sustainable.”

Town leaders are struggling to craft municipal budgets based on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed spending plan, which requires towns and cities to shoulder a portion of teacher retirement pensions, while also removing several state grants.

 

No alternative budgets back to top

Since no alternative budgets have been put forward by Democrat or Republican lawmakers, town leaders are left with using Malloy’s figures, even though those numbers will likely change – but not by the time residents vote on their local budgets.

Plainfield First Selectman Paul Sweet, whose proposed budget carries a 4-mill property tax rate increase, said he’s prepared to take an unusual step this year.

“When we take our budget to residents, I’ll have to tell people not to support it and hope better numbers come out from the state later,” he said. “There’s no chance this kind of budget will pass.”

DeLong said municipal leaders throughout the state also plan to submit budgets and hope they get rejected. He said other leaders are contemplating sending out tax bills based on this fiscal year’s figures and sending supplemental bills once a state budget is finalized.

“But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we won’t have a state budget until October,” DeLong said.

Voluntown First Selectman Robert Sirpenski said he stands to lose $800,000 of his $1.6 million general government budget under Malloy’s proposed budget.

“That’s half,” he said. “And to make up that lost money, we’d have to increase our mill rate by four or five mills.”