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Editorial: Change needed to drive state forward

Editorial: Change needed to drive state forward

New Haven Register

November 22, 2017

The financial situation in Connecticut is as stable as an earthquake that hasn’t quite settled down.

A $5 billion biennial budget deficit was staring us straight in the eye, with legislators trying to find threads of stability and even while a budget was finally adopted after months of delay, the state now faces a $202.8 million deficit in 2018.

But while serious challenges lie ahead, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities reports there are glimmers of change on the horizon — even as it warns more must be done, including regionalization of some services, which it believes holds the key to a more financially stable future.

CCM touts itself as the state’s largest, nonpartisan organization of municipal leaders. It represents 165 of the Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities. The collective mission of the organization is to improve life for residents by sharing practices that have proven successful in local governance; advocating at the state Capitol for issues that affect taxpayers; and advocating for pooling of buying power among municipalities to negotiate more cost-effective services.

CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong says years of persistent advocacy by the organization are beginning to pay dividends that bring the state closer to making changes it needs to become more fiscally responsible and deliver better services to residents.

In its analysis of the recently inked bipartisan state budget, DeLong sees steps forward on issues it advocated strongly for that included restoration of much of the state aid that was cut during the budget process and an elimination of the teacher’s retirement mandate that the state sought to push on towns and cities.

A biggie for the organization was the effort to mitigate a state aid proposal that would have left 85 municipalities without any education funding and significantly reduced education funding in another 50. All municipalities will now receive aid and a more progressive ECS formula was enacted for Fiscal 2019 to better reflect the needs of the communities. 

Other CCM issues back to top

CCM also advocated to keep the unpopular car property tax in place to prevent up to $800 million from being heaped onto an already overburdened tax base.

But DeLong believes regionalization is a key solution to saving municipalities money that is crucially needed — and the next step that must be conquered is getting elected leaders and unions on board with that mission.

He points to significant savings that could be realized by shaving administrative costs off Board of Education budgets and sharing services among municipalities.

We agree with this shrewd approach to tighten the belt where good and reasonable options exist.

As an example, each BOE comes with a budget that must meet the costs of administration and business operations and a host of other expenditures such as human resources, transportation, food services and maintenance.

Certainly, there is room for some sort of regionalization in this area to cut costs, no matter how unpopular it may be.

Another example of needless expenditures would be the three fire districts in deficit-strapped West Haven, where the general consensus is only one is needed. Money could be saved without putting the public in danger.

In the era of sharing, it makes sense for towns and cities to share services and cooperate with each other in areas that would help reduce the bottom line and at the same time, maintain services. Some towns already share some services that are working out well, such as animal shelters and the purchase of some winter road supplies.

As more responsibility is being shifted to towns and cities, CCM can be a strong collective voice that is needed to advocate for ideas that bring good solutions to local municipalities.

With services being slashed and the quality of life diminishing for many residents, there hasn’t been much for Nutmeggers to grab onto and cheer about.

That could be changing.