State funding for education and other municipal grants took a hit in the budget proposal the Appropriations Committee approved Wednesday.
Curious how your town would fare if these cuts are signed into law? Here’s a look.
This fiscal year, the state will send $2.058 billion to towns and cities for education through the Education Cost Sharing grant, the state’s primary payment to help municipalities run their schools. While this grant has been regularly shielded from cuts in the past, the legislature’s budget-writing committee on Wednesday recommended cutting it by $30.2 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
By design, this grant directs more funding to towns with high concentrations of high-need students and to poor communities that have the least ability to raise revenue locally. However, the legislature has routinely ignored the formula in recent years and shielded towns from losing money, even if the formula called for it because their property values increased or their enrollment shrank. This so-called hold-harmless provisions has benefited several more affluent towns.
“When you don’t run the formula over 12 years things get out of balance,” said Sen. Beth Bye, a Democrat from West Hartford and the co-chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.
On Wednesday, the Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee recommended eliminating this hold-harmless provision so that no town would receive more than what the formula dictates – a change that will cost 55 towns $26.4 million in funding next year.
“Everyone down in Fairfield county is really getting hit hard with these cuts, with the exception of the cities,” said Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican. She represents Wilton and Westport, two of the state’s wealthiest communities, which would lose one-third of their education aid under this shift. “Some of the towns are really getting hammered by this policy. Some towns get very little to begin with, but they have come to rely on it.”
In addition to these cuts, the proposal calls for across-the-board cuts to most communities, with the lowest-achieving districts losing a smaller percentage.
But not every community would lose education money.
Twenty-five towns that were not receiving at least 55 percent of what the ECS formula called for would get a boost in state funding next year. West Hartford is the biggest winner. It would get an additional $1.4 million. Danbury would get $840,000 and Shelton $655,000.
The state also provides smaller grants to help local communities cover other education costs, including transportation, adult education and special education.
Funding for special education was not cut and cuts to the other grants were minor.
Other aid to towns
The state also provides municipalities with funding to partially make up for the revenue lost because nonprofit colleges and hospitals and state property are exempt from property taxes. The committee recommended cutting these funds – known as PILOT grants, for payments in lieu of taxes – by $11.2 million, a 6 percent reduction.
In addition, municipalities receive a portion of slot revenue from the state’s two casinos. The committee recommended cutting these funds – referred to below as Pequot grants – by $3.6 million, a 6 percent reduction.
Not included in the charts below are grants for town road maintenance and local capital improvement projects. The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee did not recommend changes in funding for either grant program.
The finance panel did add $12 million to the revenue-sharing program that now is expected to distribute $240 million in sales tax receipts to cities and towns in 2016-17. This distribution is based, in part, upon municipal grand list totals, and the committee adjusted the grant total to reflect grand list revaluations completed by communities in 2014 and 2015. A town-by-town run for that grant was not available Thursday.