Local leaders brace for deep cut in state aid – ‘It’s doing business like we’ve never done business before’

Local leaders brace for deep cut in state aid – ‘It’s doing business like we’ve never done business before’

Record-Journal


As the state approaches the end of its third month without a budget, Southington Town Council leaders want to know how the town manager and school superintendent are preparing for cuts under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order.

Southington Town Council Chairman Mike Riccio and Minority Leader Chris Palmieri addressed an open letter Friday to Town Manager Garry Brumback and School Superintendent Timothy Connellan, asking them to present options should the executive order remain in place.

Riccio said Monday that Southington stands to lose roughly $5 million in the first round of Education Cost Sharing grants, which arrive next month.

“We could be taking a $20 million hit, here, how are we going to do that?” Riccio said. “It’s doing business like we’ve never done business before.”

Under the current executive order, Southington would lose $21.3 million over the course of the fiscal year.

The state remains without a budget because lawmakers and Malloy have not yet agreed on how to close a projected $3.5 billion deficit over two years.

Other municipal officials say they haven’t yet taken the same step as Riccio and Palmieri, but added their towns have already begun responding to the executive order.

Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said the city school system has enacted a hiring freeze and cut back on spending.

Wallingford Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said his town has enough in reserve funds to wait a few months before taking action.

Scarpati and Cervoni urged lawmakers to adopt a budget soon so municipalities know how much aid they will receive.

“It’s extremely frustrating, and I think all municipalities are sharing in the frustration of just wanting to know what the number is, good, bad, or otherwise,” Scarpati said.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the situation could be avoided if Malloy accepted the Republican budget, which passed both the House and Senate.

“I am committed to working together with all lawmakers to revise the budget, but in the short term our towns and cities deserve answers,” said Fasano, whose district includes Wallingford.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, whose district includes part of Southington, said he has been updating local officials on the budget.

“We are all sensitive to the troublesome scenario that is on the horizon for our schools and towns under the governor’s executive order, which is why it is critical that we all work together and compromise to reach a bipartisan agreement on a budget in short order,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Malloy said the governor also “could not agree more with the urgency of the situation for our schools, students, and educators.”

“It is incumbent upon state leaders to come together and reach an agreement on a biennial budget that the governor can sign right away,” Malloy spokeswoman Meg Green said.

Local officials said they anticipate having to cut costs soon, possibly without a final state budget to guide them.

“I do not believe that we would let the potential lack of (state) funding ... linger,” Cervoni said. “I think that it would be fiscally responsible to address it before you tap too far into (reserves).”

Wallingford stands to lose roughly $20.5 million if the executive order remains in place for the entire fiscal year. Meriden would lose $3.8 million in municipal aid.

Local officials are also worried that could mean losses even once a budget is adopted, as any cuts already in effect would just become part of the final spending plan. Scarpati said municipalities recognize that it would be difficult for Malloy and lawmakers to find any additional funds for local aid in the current fiscal climate.

“We understand that the state is in a difficult position right now,” Scarpati said. “So for us to think that all towns and municipalities should be getting more isn’t realistic.”

msavino@record-journal.com
203-317-2266
Twitter: @reporter_savino


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