NEWINGTON - As of today (Sept. 29), Connecticut will be 91 days without a budget, and elected officials are measuring the impact of the impasse to the town.
Town Manager Tanya Lane and the Town Council received an update this week from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents Newington and most other municipalities at the state level. CCM spokesman Kevin Maloney told the group that the absence of a budget this late in the year is an unprecedented situation.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Maloney said. “It’s upsetting.”
A $3.5 billion budget deficit has kept lawmakers in discussions since the year began. It’s been two weeks since the State Senate passed the Republicans’ version of the budget, which would require Gov. Dannel Malloy’s signature to move forward. Malloy vetoed the plan, however.
“We’re hoping the compromise that comes out of this will be somewhere between both the GOP’s and the governor’s budgets,” Maloney said. “Something that’s manageable to towns.”
CCM is advocating for its member towns at the Capitol, in hopes of relieving them of unfunded mandates and local contributions to teacher pensions.
If a budget fails to pass by Sunday, Oct. 1, an executive order would be required, enlisting deeper cuts.
“If this impasse continues into November it would create some real issues in towns where state aid is 40 or 50 percent of their budgets,” Maloney said. “The towns that are more distressed financially will start to have some real problems with cash flow and that should be enough motivation for the governor to move forward.”
Local municipalities rely heavily on school funding, which comes in the form of Education Cost Sharing grants.
Towns can expect ECS funding by the end of October, according to Maloney. Exactly how much each town will receive is yet to be determined.
Lane told elected officials that the town would have to make a $15 million reduction in its budget in the rare case that no state aid was received.
“If the worst case scenario ensues everything’s on the table,” she explained. “We’re looking at layoffs, taking some of the unassigned fund balance and worst case possible, we have to go out and take a bond to cover the shortfall.”
The good news is that Newington’s bond rating is among the best in the state, which means the town is in good shape to borrow money, if necessary.
Maloney told officials that he is going to remain in regular contact to keep them abreast of any changes happening at the state level.
Like many towns, Newington has yet to send out its motor vehicle tax bills. The state-proposed 32-mill tax cap did not yet pass, but it poses a significant drop from the current cap of 37 mills. If bills were issued reflecting the town’s current mill rate of 36.59 before the lower state cap moved forward, taxpayers could receive a credit for the difference.
Connecticut is the only state in America that has not yet enacted a budget this year.
If and when the governor vetoes the GOP budget on the table, the Senate could override his action with a two-thirds majority vote, putting funding into place.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.