Municipal leaders upset with Malloy’s distribution of state aid

Municipal leaders say Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget will reduce non-education state grants for more than a third of Connecticut’s cities and towns in the next fiscal year, and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is calling on the administration to make sure all municipalities are “held harmless” in the budget.

Total state spending for the municipal grant programs would actually increase, but the criteria for distribution of the grants would create winners and losers among the municipalities. The 69 losers stand to receive about $7 million less than they did this fiscal year; winners gain about $10.4 million, according to a town-by-town listing provided by CCM.

Among other things, the grants at issue include such things as state payments based on the amount of tax-exempt property in a municipality.

Among the municipalities CCM listed as receiving less in the proposed budget are the state’s largest cities as well as a number of suburban and rural towns. Hartford, for example, would receive $2.5 million less, New Haven $1.2 million less, West Hartford $185,000 less, and East Lyme $48,000 less.

Among those receiving more, Middletown would gain the most — $3.8 million.

Calling the reductions a “flaw” in the governor’s proposed budget, CCM, a bi-partisan coalition of mayors and first selectmen, said it would “work with the governor and legislature to ensure that property taxpayers in each municipality are held harmless.”

“The Governor made [a] very direct pledge in his budget address,” CCM said in a press release. “Yet, it remains a fact that, after a brief increase, largely due to temporary revenue sharing, the amount of non-education aid provided to towns and cities is set to decrease.”

In his budget address, Malloy said, “This budget continues to fund municipal aid so that we can hold down local property taxes, and so that no teacher, no policeman, and no fireman will be laid off because state government failed to do its part.”

Gian-Carl Casa, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office, said Malloy has tried to shield towns from cuts. “This is a year in which many groups are facing steep cuts,” he said. “Their argument is with the formula, which is in statute, and not with the grant.”

In his proposed budget, the governor also flat-funded the largest source of state aid to towns, the Education Cost Sharing Grant. He did cut about $20 million from various state education grants that largely help the neediest districts pay for things like longer school days, full-day kindergarten, early reading interventions and summer school.

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