Cities, Towns Look to Fend Off Budget Cuts

Cities and towns receive roughly 15 percent of all spending in the state of Connecticut.

Mayor Mark Boughton, who leads the group that represents almost all of the 169 cities and towns in Connecticut said Tuesday that local governments are providing a better example of sound budgeting than state government.

“Our message here today is, we’ll work with you to get your own house in order. Get your own house in order. We don’t have deficits in our budgets" Boughton said.

Members of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities held their annual day at the State Capitol Tuesday where they pushed their legislative priorities. Though have several pressing issues, dealing with the state budget crisis was front and center.

Boughton argued on behalf of CCM members that cities and towns have been cut enough after years of increased and flat funding, while other parts of the budget were cut.

“We’ve had to make those tough choices and we know they have to do them here but we certainly don’t want to be dinner time, we don’t want to be on the plate," he said.

One of the most powerful members of the General Assembly, despite Boughton's cries, has been looking to trim municipal spending in some ways for years.

Rep. Brendan Sharkey, the Democratic Speaker of the House, told NBC Connecticut that cities and towns should be sharing services for local taxpayers. Simply put, Sharkey said every city and town shouldn't be individually providing all services in each municipality.

“It has to go well beyond their own individual budgets," Sharkey said.

"We have to start looking at how towns can work cooperatively on a regional basis both on the municipal side and particularly on the education side to help regionalize services and create those efficiencies that we all that I think every taxpayer is expecting that.”

The speaker even pointed the example in Boughton's own city of Danbury, that has the capacity to handle multiple towns 911 calls, but neighboring towns have decided they would rather handle such calls on their own.

"If a town chooses to do that on its own then fine but the state shouldn’t be subsidizing that inefficiency," Sharkey said.

Sharkey wants to tie municipal efficiencies and the ways they're saving money through sharing services to how much money the state provides to individual cities and towns.

Boughton said municipalities have already done much of what he's describing and doesn't like the idea of such ultimatums.

"We’re already performing. We perform every day. If we don’t perform, we don’t have a job next election," he said.

Sharkey said it's owed to taxpayers to know that cities and towns are doing everything possible to use money wisely and not be redundant.

However, the speaker said he's not proposing a new level of government like counties. He said it's about regional sharing.

"All that does is put another layer of government in place. We don’t want that. But there are clearly ways and we’ve laid the foundations for all of the efficiencies for towns and cities, and boards of education for these to occur."

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