Legislators Hear From Mayors, First Selectmen; Unknowns in State Budget Causing Worries
By Paul Hughes
HARTFORD – Mayors and first selectmen on Monday told state legislators once again how Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget recommendations threaten to force sizable property tax increases and service cuts.
There is an even greater degree of uncertainty and unease among the 169 towns and cities that are developing municipal budgets now because local officials are unsure if they can rely on the governor’s budget plan as a floor.
“We are throwing darts without a dart board because we have no target,” said Johh Elsesser, town manager of Coventry and a past president of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.
Representatives of COST and the larger Connecticut Conference of Municipalities expressed opposition to Malloy’s budget recommendations and petitioned for relief from state mandates before the Appropriations Committee on Monday.
There are more than 1,200 state mandates on municipalities, according to COST and CCM.
Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary observed legislators have introduced 10 bills to provide mandate relief, but they proposed nearly three times as many bills that would add more state mandates.
He conveyed CCM’s position that the legislature should shelve either any new mandates under consideration this session, or appropriate state funds to pay for any additional mandates that are imposed.
CCM and COST back to top
CCM and COST are backing a bill that would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to approve any new municipal mandates.
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, Senate co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, asked COST and CCM to identify the five most onerous state mandates.
Towns and cities consider Malloy’s proposal to have municipalities pay one-third of the annual contribution to the state-run retirement fund for public school teachers one of the most objectionable proposed mandates and budget recommendations.
This change would shift a $400 million cost to local budgets next year.
Goshen First Selectman Robert P. Valentine said taxpayers in big cities, suburbs and small towns cannot afford to shoulder that burden.
Rep. Brian M. Ohler, R-Salisbury, noted that boards of selectmen and local councils have no role in negotiating teacher contracts.