State budget stalemate leads to East Haven spending freeze

EAST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – With the state budget stalemate dragging on, cities and towns are growing frustrated. They don’t know if, when, or how much money is coming their way from the state.

Leaders from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST) met with Governor Dannel Malloy at the State Capitol on Friday. These organizations represent communities all over Connecticut. They hope local and state leaders can work together.

“My wish is that we get to a point where we’re finally making decisions, that our municipal leaders are actually sitting at the table,” said Joe DeLong, executive director of CCM.

Leaders of many cities and towns are concerned. East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo has enacted a spending freeze because of budget concerns. That means non-emergency purchase orders and overtime will need authorization from the mayor’s office.

The town’s Director of Finance, Paul Rizza, says the spending freeze won’t impact emergency situations, but it could affect emergency responders.

“We’ll be looking at our police, fire and public works, which are large departments, so we can in fact try to slow their rate of expenditure,” Rizza said.

He says spending freezes themselves aren’t unusual, but they are rare this early in the fiscal year. They can save towns a lot of money, however.

Rizza says the state’s budget problems have meant an especially difficult time for towns.

“I’ve been in government over 40 years and do not ever remember being in a situation like we’re currently in,” he said.

East Haven’s spending freeze won’t impact the town’s bills, such as utilities, fuel or lease payments.

“I also had some difficult conversations, not the least of which is that I don’t have as much money as anybody would like me to have to give towards any cause,” said Malloy.

Senate President Martin Looney released a statement, saying,

“For the chief lobbyists of CCM and COST to stand up publicly and declare that they have not and are not asking for towns to be held harmless when it comes to municipal aid is misleading and does not accurately represent the positions of the mayors and first selectmen from whom we have heard.
“It has been extraordinarily difficult to put together a final budget largely because of this issue of municipal aid. If the top lobbyists for the two largest municipal advocacy organizations and their mayors and first selectmen are willing to stand side-by-side with the Governor as he renews his call to pass his budget and the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to municipal aid, then it should not be difficult reaching a final budget agreement that slashes aid to cities and towns.”

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