Small town leaders bracing for local aid cuts

WTNH/Joe Sferrazza

CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH) — The leaders of all of Connecticut’s small towns are still reeling from the mid budget year cuts in local education funding the governor announced last month.

Wednesday, when he addressed them at their annual meeting, he noted that he had recently checked all of their local budgets.

“I recently reviewed the cash balance of all the communities represented in this room because I saw all the communities represented and with respect to cash balance; you’re all in substantially better shape than we are,” said Governor Dannel Malloy.

Many in the room took that to mean that because most of the small towns have money in their ‘rainy day funds‘ that they can afford to take another big hit from the state in the form of less local aid.

“Could be making some of these small towns unaffordable to live in,” said Old Saybrook Republican 1st Selectman Carl Fortuna.

They are all bracing for the state’s budget woes to not trickle, but gush down to the small towns.

“In Old Saybrook, a lot of it may be reduced, if not all of it. But in a lot of other small towns it’s reduced significantly it is going to impact ‘mill rates’ in these small towns significantly,” said Fortuna.

So even though the governor has said there is no appetite for tax hikes at the state level, some small towns may face enormous pressure.

“It’s going to be difficult to make up the kind of cuts that we’re hearing that are forthcoming,” said Durham Republican 1st Selectman Laura Francis.

Other town leaders are concerned about potential cuts in the “Local Capitol Improvement Program” that helps them pay for everything from road repairs to replacing underground oil tanks.

“We like that one, we count on it because it’s really the only ‘line item’ of any consequence that the town of Lyme and other quote wealthy small towns get that means something and be readily used,” said Lyme Republican 1st Selectman Ralph Eno.

After the speech the governor said he wasn’t making any threats, just explaining the reality of the situation.

“No, I just, it’s reality, ya know, it’s just not at message it’s a reality,” said Malloy.

Town leaders did hear one piece of welcome news today.  They often complain about state mandates where the state requires them to do certain things, but doesn’t give them any money to pay for it.

The governor said that in his budget address next month that they would like what they hear on the mandate front.

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