Municipal Leaders Push Back Against Budget Cuts

Mayors and first selectmen converged on the Connecticut Capitol on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers about funding for the state's cities and towns.

From unfunded mandates to level funding, leaders say the state has to do more to help the municipalities on which many of the state's services are based.

"We’re hoping that we can state our case to the legislators, but I think they realize that local government is where the rubber meets the road for the services that are provided to our communities and any cut in there is either going to hurt services or raise taxes," said South Windsor Town Manager Matthew Galligan.

One cut that has smaller towns particularly concerned is a reduction in the state's share of the resident state trooper program.

"They have to reinstate that funding," said Durham First Selectman Laura Francis. "Those troopers mean a lot to our towns."

When the governor delivered his budget address in February and announced level funding for cities and towns, members of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities made it clear that they were thrilled with the decision.

"CCM is very appreciative that Governor Malloy has maintained a commitment to property tax payers by sparing towns and cities from cuts in aid in the major state grants," a spokesperson said in a statement.

But that feeling didn't last.

"Level funding is really a cut," New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said Tuesday.

The city has received increased funding each year since 2012, totaling near $25 million.

In a statement, Gov. Dannel Malloy's spokesman said, "The Governor has prevented local tax increases because he has not, and will not, balance the budget on the backs of cities and towns."

His spokesman continued, "We know that local leaders across Connecticut were celebrating on budget day – and that's because the Governor has and continues to support them in ways no Connecticut leader has before."

Democrats in the General Assembly are working on their own budget to present by the end of April.

State Sen. Beth Bye, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, said her group is looking at all options to balance the budget.

"I think one of the issues we face is that for the past two budget cycles, we have not cut cities and towns because we know that translates to property taxes and we know that property taxes are regressive, and sometimes we know that they hurt seniors more than anyone else who have flat incomes," said Bye, a Democrat from West Hartford.

Bye added that she recognizes the importance of municipalities within Connecticut's structure of government and what their actions mean for residents.

"Cities and towns aren’t off the hook but we also understand how important they are in that we don’t want to raise property taxes," Bye said.

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