Tolls, Special Ed. Funding, Shared Services On Same Page for Mayor & Senator
New Haven Independent, January 17, 2019
By CCM Staff
While there might be some policy differences between Waterbury Mayor and CCM President Neil O’Leary and State Senate President Martin Looney, they weren’t apparent on the latest episode of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities’ The Municipal Voice.
Topics ranged from tolls to education talks, and for the most part both the Mayor and Senator were on the same page.
While tolls might be a hot topic elsewhere, Senator Looney came right out and said that Connecticut needs tolls: “It is going to be essential for us to have tolls if we are going to deal with Connecticut’s infrastructure needs.”
“I have always been in favor of tolling for all the reasons Senator Looney very correctly points out,” asking only that those funds go directly to infrastructure spending.
When it comes to tolls though, Senator Looney suggests that there could be some relief to the gas tax, pointing out that through state travelers don’t spend as much on gas in Connecticut. This might go far enough to alleviate the fear of installing tolls on Connecticut roads, as CT drivers will see relief at the gas pumps in exchange for better infrastructure.
And probate districts back to top
Another topic that there was much agreement on was shared services.
Senator Looney spoke to probate districts as a model for sharing services in Boards of Education. Towns below 40,000 should “presume it’s going to be a part of a regional probate district, […] and we should use the same assumption in reorganizing Connecticut’s school districts.”
He congratulated Mayor O’Leary for an initiative that he undertook to help students displaced from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and Mayor O’Leary shot right back that Senator Looney was a big part of that initiative.
Special Education was also a topic of consideration and agreement between the two. Mayor O’Leary noted that while larger cities like his have been equipped to handle special needs students, which is why Waterbury is working with Watertown to help four special needs children. For smaller towns, one child can drastically change the entire budget for the city.
Senator Looney brought up one change that he is trying to get to help cities out enormously. Right now, a town has to spend 4.5 times the per pupil expenditure before receiving help from the state. Senator Looney is introducing a bill to reduce that to 2 - 2.5 times the per pupil expenditure.
Summing up, Mayor O’Leary spoke of CCM’s membership made up of 168 out of 169 municipalities, when you have small towns, big cities, rich and poor, it’s hard to get everyone on the same page: “but we have people mostly on the same page.”