Municipal leaders argued Monday that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed cut to the resident trooper program would force property tax hikes, public safety cutbacks, or both.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, citing new survey results, also projected the 62 communities that use the resident trooper program would lose more than $5 million per year combined under the governor’s proposal.
“For many small towns, this increase would be unsustainable,” CCM wrote in a statement. “Local officials would have to decide whether to continue to participate in the program, or rely on troopers from the barracks to provide necessary public safety.”
The new, two-year state budget Malloy proposed last month would require towns to cover 100 percent of resident trooper program costs, up from the current 70 percent share.
CCM surveyed the 62 communities that would be affected, and 29 towns responded, indicating they would lose an average of $108,017 per year, or $3.1 million in total.
CCM also projected, citing those results, that the total annual impact on all towns would reach $5 million.
The administration has defended this cut, arguing that while tough budget choices must be made, this plan preserves the program. It “still allows the municipalities the flexibility to design the community policing strategies without the expensive infrastructure and administrative costs of running a local (police) department,” the administration wrote in its budget narrative.
But three first selectmen from small, northwestern Connecticut towns told the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Monday that the governor’s plan leaves them choices – all of which are bad.
“It definitely would mean a (property) tax increase in our town,” Harwinton First Selectman Michael Criss said, adding that the potential annual loss in state support represents 2 percent of his community’s overall budget.
Criss said he and his local finance board also have discussed cutting one trooper.
“There would definitely be layoffs,” said Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul, who also wouldn’t rule out a property tax hike.
Barkhamsted First Selectman Donald Stein, who also said tax hikes or layoffs were likely, said communities that reduce their use of resident troopers – or eliminate them entirely – would be less safe.
Though they still would receive protection through the closest state police barracks, the state police there would not be as familiar with a community – and its problems – as a resident trooper would be.
“You lose that continuity, you lose that knowledge,” Stein said. “The public safety would suffer.”
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee and the Appropriations Committee will issue their own budget proposals for the next two fiscal years next month.