NEWINGTON - Town leaders are just beginning to grapple with a $3.4 million cut in state funding, one of the deepest in the governor’s recent municipal aid package.
After signing the General Assembly’s $41 billion, two-year spending plan, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that he would be holding back $91 million in state aid to towns. Out of the 160 Connecticut towns facing a drop from last year’s grant allotment, Newington bears the fifth-highest cut.
“The staff, town manager and finance director are working on a plan that should enable us to squeak by the end of the fiscal year, hopefully without any furloughs or reductions in force,” Mayor Roy Zartarian said this week. “We’re looking at freezing expenditures, particularly in the area of capital improvements.”
The governor’s announce-ment came right as a new Town Council and Board of Education took their seats and the $28 million plan to rebuild Newington Town Hall was approved by voters. The state’s cut will not impact this project, according to the mayor.
“The Town Hall plan will still be proceeding because we’ll be going into borrowing for that,” he explained.
His concern, however, is how Moody’s Investor Service will adjust the town’s credit rating once it enters the bond market.
“Several dozen towns have received lower ratings because of the state’s budget situation,” Zartarian pointed out.
The council plans to address the issue more in depth at its next meeting, on Dec. 12.
“It’s still really premature at this point what were going to do,” Majority Leader Carol Anest said. “Right now the town is still in the discussion stages.”
The town received notifi-cation from the Secretary of State’s office that it would be receiving the first funding allotment at the end of November, with more to come in January.
It could be worse.
Funding to Bridgeport was slashed $6.3 million, more than any other town. Nearby, the Wethersfield Town Council is dealing with its own $1.4 million cut. Berlin’s drop came in at just under a million dollars.
Only nine towns were slated to receive more dollars in 2018 than 2017.
In his letter to the Secretary of State and legislative branch, Malloy outlined his reasons for signing the budget into law, following a 120-day impasse.
“I recognize that many of the spending cuts contained in this budget are difficult for legislators, and for me,” he wrote.
“I commend members of the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle for finding common ground on these difficult decisions. I asked that they deliver a budget that is fair, balanced and free of gimmicks. This budget, taken as a whole, addresses those concerns.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.