Municipal reaction to budget impasse: ‘Crippling,’ ‘devastating,’ ‘punishing’ and ‘unsustainable’

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

The cover of a Connecticut Conference of Municipalities newsletter.

The governor’s budget chief recently asked municipal leaders to give him an update on their community’s fiscal health as pressure mounts at the State Capitol to cut state aid for cities and towns this fiscal year.

About half responded, and from the largest city to the littlest town, their comments reflected their displeasure.

Bridgeport shared that it does not have enough revenue coming in to pay its bills by year’s end. Tiny Eastford promised to keep one of the state’s smallest schools open “emaciated as its staff and programming may become.”

Others took to lecturing the governor’s budget office, saying that expecting towns to tap their reserves is a one-time fix, and not the structural change Connecticut needs.

“A philosophy which rewards bad behavior and punished good would not be tolerated in our own homes and should not be a model for state budgeting,” wrote Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake.

Several school systems would lay off staff. Norwich, one of the state’s lowest-achieving districts, cancelled summer school.

Another said voters would not approve a tax increase to makeup for cuts so, “It’s obvious Scotland will become financially insolvent.” Likewise, Southbury said its rainy-day fund would be zero by year’s end. Tolland could run out of cash by January.

Several towns officials said they are looking to further regionalize services to save money and most towns promised to offset state cuts with tax increases for their local taxpayers.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy insists on putting state aid on the chopping block. His latest budget proposal reduces state resources for municipalities by $476 million this year – a 19 percent reduction. House Democrats have proposed $120 million in cuts, but in the state Senate, where the parties have an equal number of seats, the Republican leader has said it would be unfair to make towns pay for the state’s fiscal mismanagement. Senate Democrats are also divided on the issue.

Now well into the fiscal year with no budget, local leaders were also asked by the governor’s budget office to share how much they have in their reserves and what the impact will be of the budget impasse on their communities.

Here’s what they they said:

Ashford

Town Treasurer Cheryl Baker writes here rural community is “rich in tax exempt properties” and that assessed property values have decreased, largely in part, because 40 homes have crumbling foundations.

The tax bill residents received for this fiscal year included a 2 mill increase. However, any cuts from the state could lead to mill rate increases up to 7 and raiding the town’s rainy-day fund.

“The budget proposals being circulated would have a devastating effect on the town,” Baker writes. “After centuries of being fiscally responsible, cuts of this magnitude at state level would have the appearance of penalizing us for our efforts.”

See Ashford’s response here.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Commuters on U.S. Route 44 in Avon.

Avon

Avon has already budgeted for a complete elimination of state education aid. If state funding is cut beyond the $782,000 the town has already budgeted for, Avon’s town manager explains that “adjustments will be guided by the existing financial policies and practices that have enabled the Town to attain and maintain its strong financial condition.”

See Avon’s response here.

Barkhamsted

First Selectman Donald S. Stein dedicated much of his 3-page letter explaining that his tiny town has attempted to be fiscally responsible: the town’s school school system only has a 2-day per week superintendent and high school students are sent to a regional high school.

“In the town budget, we basically provide town hall services, road maintenance and winder plowing, and very little else,” he wrote. “We essentially provide no luxuries, just the essential services.”

The town has regionalized solid waste disposal, library services and animal control and residents pay for curbside pick-up and recreation, if they choose.

If state funding is cut by more than $1 million as the governor proposes, the teachers at the local elementary school “would see a significant reduction.”

Also, the town would have to consider raising taxes by another 3 mills on top of the tax increase that have already been approved for this fiscal year. Or, the town could eliminate the Resident State Trooper and school-based police officer “which will seriously compromise public safety.”

“The need result will likely be some combination of these options, all of which are unpalatable,” he wrote.

See Barkhamsted’s response here.

Jake Kara / CTMirror.org

A sign outside Bethel town hall reminds residents that taxes are due.

Bethel

Town Comptroller Bob Kozlowski said the town cannot rely on its $11.9 million in reserves to cover cuts in state funding, as that money is needed to cover the “tremendous need” for construction projects.

“Needless to say, any cuts by the State, in education funding will have a disastrous effort on the needs required to maintain the current standard of living for our residents,” he wrote.

See Bethel’s response here.

Bolton

First Selectman Robert Morra said the town cannot live without its reserves since it is already accounted for, namely to cover the next year’s budget.

“We are not in any position to utilize our ‘rainy day’ fund,” he writes, pointing out the $2.9 million in reserves the town had at the close of last fiscal year, “No longer exist… We do not have any capability to endure major reductions in state aid by utilizing fund balance.”

See Bolton’s response here.

Bridgeport

If no budget is adopted, the state’s largest city will run out of cash and need to drain its already small reserves before the year ends next June.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CTMirror.org

A derelict factory building in Bridgeport last fall.

Under the governor’s fist executive order, budget director Nestor Nkwo wrote the city was on base to end the fiscal year with a $26 million deficit, a 5 percent structural shortfall.

The governor has since revised that executive order – and has Bridgeport losing $4 million more in overall state aid.

“The continuation of the State budget impasse has drastically affected the City of Bridgeport cashflow,” Nkwo wrote, adding the city already has one of the highest tax rates in the state and every city council member is against further increasing mill rates.

“In summary, Bridgeport General Fund and Board of Education are in desperate need” of $42 million this fiscal year, he wrote.

See Bridgeport’s response here.

Bridgewater

First Selectman Curtis Read takes issue that state education aid has been cut over the years “because our town has been judge as rich by some convoluted metric.”

Town property values have been dropping, the town’s infrastructure is “old and vulnerable, and we already run a bare bones operation.”

The town has already increased its mill rate for the current fiscal year and if further cuts in state aid are approved, “taxes will have to go up, making our town less attractive to retirees and young families.”

Instead of cutting municipal aid, the first selectman recommends the state begin taxing federal defense contractors.

See Bridgewater’s response here.

Bristol

The city has adopted a budget assuming state aid would remain flat. While the city does not yet have a plan in place if substantial cuts in state aid are adopted, the city’s comptroller estimates that they would need to boost taxes 5 and 10 percent or cut spending significantly.

See Bristol’s response here.

Brooklyn

The town of Brooklyn provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have been reduced by two-thirds over the last three years.

See Brooklyn’s response here.

Burlington

The chairman of Burlington’s board of finance says cuts in state aid would force the town to use part of its healthy fund balance and raise taxes on residents.

“In effect this is a tax increase by the state,” First selectman Theodore Shafer wrote.

He added that substantial other cuts would need to be made including “athletic fields will be mothballed and we may be forced to go to a 3 or 4 day work week” and school staff will need to be laid off. “Class rooms will be larger.”

And then he had some harsh words for the governor’s office.

“The State has been fiscally irresponsible and now they want the towns to bail them out. If items are ‘untouchable’ due to past legislation undo the legislation. It’s time to hit the programs that no one wants to talk about,” he wrote.

See Burlington’s response here.

Canterbury

This small town’s rainy-day fund is at the “bare minimum” to maintain its current bond rating and borrowing would be more expensive if the town has to further reduce this fund, First Selectman Roy Piper wrote.

With state funding-levels uncertain, to town “is in the process of cutting services, cutting hours of work for our town employees, and reducing hours of operations at our Town Hall and Public Library, as well as to reduce spending across the board in all departments to the point of ’emergency expenditures’ only,” Piper wrote.

See Canterbury’s response here.

Town of Chester

Chester

Chester

This town’s adopted budget assumed a 19 percent cut in state aid. But, the governor’s executive order eliminates all state aid, and if the stalemate doesn’t end soon, the town will need to increase taxes or draw down its reserves.

First Selectwoman Lauren Gister explains that the town’s budget “is bare bones and cannot cut without jeopardizing public safety or the educational excellence we have fought so hard to achieve.

“…Gradual tax increases are par for the course in this situation; a large shift in state revenue will put Chester’s fiscal health in danger.”

See Chester’s response here.

Clinton

The town of Clinton provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have been reduced by 20 percent over the last three years.

See Clinton’s response here.

Colebrook Elementary School, where voters rejected regionalizing with a neighboring town.

Colebrook

The town’s adopted budget assumes a 15 percent reduction in state aid and any larger cut “will reduce the 2017-18 fund balance dollar for dollar,” wrote James Millar, chair of the town’s board of finance.

In future years, those reductions “will be passed through to taxpayers in the form of higher mill rates,” he wrote.

See Colebrook’s response here.

Columbia

Columbia plans to tap it reserves if state aid is cut this fiscal year.

Mark Walter, the town administrator, writes that the municipality “will be stressed without state municipal aid and there will be major property tax increases in the upcoming budgets.”

See Columbia’s response here.

Cornwall

This town, which acknowledges its high school has the highest per-student cost in Connecticut, said it will have to raise property taxes if state aid is cut beyond what was budgeted.

See Cornwall’s response here.

Kyle Constable / CTMirror.org

Downtown Darien on a weekday.

Darien

The town of Darien provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show the town has a healthy level of reserves (12 percent of operating costs) and the fund has been stable over the last three years.

See Darien’s response here.

Derby

Derby also just provided its reserve levels. This town has cut its rainy-day fund in half since 2015, or from $2.1 million to 1 million.

See Derby’s response here.

East Hartford

East Hartford plans to substantially reduce its reserves if the cuts in the governor’s executive order are realized. Tho town’s reserves will be drained from $19.3 million to $12.3 million.

See East Hartford’s response here.

East Lyme

First Selectman Mark Nickerson told the governor’s office that the town’s reserves are regularly used to pay bills until revenue is collected.

“East Lyme does not have a rainy day fund. Fund balance also serve as a basis of cash flow,” Nickerson writes. “On a month by month basis we experience deficit operations in nine out of twelve months.”

See East Lyme’s response here.

Eastford

This towns local elementary school has already reduced the hours of its art and gym teacher, as well as the superintendent and principal.

In its letter to the governor’s office First Selectman Arthur Brodeur wrote the school is struggling to stay open. With 143 students, this school is one of the smallest in the state.

“We are most concerned about the future of our School,” Brodeur wrote. “We love our School, it is a fine School, with a strong and capable faculty… We will fight to preserve our School, emaciate as its staff and programming may become because of the loss of State funding.”

House Democrats propose cutting education aid to Eastford by 11 percent, or $125,000. Malloy proposes cutting it by 65 percent, or $1.2 million.

“I contend that we should not be punished for being fiscally responsible or for being a rural community,” Brodeur wrote.

See Eastford’s response here.

East Windsor

The town of East Windsor provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have been reduced by 28 over the last three years, or $2.1 million. Going into this fiscal year, the town had one of the best levels of budget reserves, as the community had enough in its reserves to cover just over 20 percent of its operating budget.

See East Windsor’s response here.

Easton

Easton explained that its reserves are unusually high since the town will soon start significant construction projects, including for two bridges.

After providing the level of reserves, First Selectman Adam Dunsby, wrote, “I trust that you are not asking simply to determine how much you can take. Easton has made tough decisions to remain fiscally sound. We should not be punished for being responsible.”

He also highlights that by his calculation, for every dollar the town sends to the state, Eastward gets back 3 cents.

See Easton’s response here.

Ellington

Ellington responded just to say that it is unable to determine the size of its fund balance since it does not know what it will be receiving from the state.

See Ellington’s response here.

Essex

This shoreline town has already budgeted for a loss of $200,000 in state aid, which is how much the governor has proposed cutting.

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CtMirror.org

Essex

To makeup for that cut, the down is drawing down a small share of its rainy-day fund. Going into this fiscal year, the size of Essex’s reserves was enough to cover 13 percent of its operating budget, which is middle-of-the-pack among municipalities in the state.

Cuts beyond $200,000, the town’s first selectman warns, could result in the delay of construction projects, but raising taxes “is the least likely option”

See Essex’s response here.

Fairfield

In the absence of a budget, Fairfield has decided to freeze hiring, construction projects and reduced its library hours. The town is considering using its reserves to makeup for cuts from the state.

The town’s rainy-day fund has grown in recent years – from 24.3 million to $28.5 million, an 18 percent increase. Going into this fiscal year, the town had enough reserves to cover 8 percent of its budget, which put them among the lower-third among municipalities in Connecticut for the size.

See Fairfield’s response here.

Farmington

Farmington shared a credit-rating agency report that said the level in its reserves in fiscal 2015 were “below average”. Since then, the town has grown its reserves from $10.3 million to $11.6 million, a 12 percent increase.

Cut’s in state aid would be unfair, writes Town Manager Kathleen Eagen.

“It is unacceptable to compromise Farmington’s high level of service which has been achieved through years of long-term strategic planning and through the political will of our town leaders,” Eagen writes. “Farmington anxiously waits for the State of Connecticut to pass this year’s budget.”

See Farmington’s response here.

Glastonbury

The town explains it has such a high level of reserves because of $8 million the town received from selling land. If state aid is cut, the town will avoid tapping its health rainy-day fund.

“Use of Fund Balance for ongoing operations and particularly from one-time events (e.g. sale of land) is not a good practice and not an approach Glastonbury is ready to take,” wrote Richard Johnson, town manager. “Allocating fund balance to ongoing expenses will create future structural issues and is not a judicious long-term solution. Communities that have managed their finances well should not be penalized for such successful efforts.”

If the town were to makeup the cuts the governor proposes with tax increases, rates would have to increase by 10 percent.

But, that “is simply not reasonable” so “significant cost reduction” would need to be made to the schools and town services.

See Glastonbury’s response here.

Granby

Town Manager John Ward explains the town has already budgeted for many of the cuts in state aid proposed by the governor. And as a result, the town’s adopted budget tapped $900,000 from its reserves, a 29 percent reduction.

The town did not share what it would do if the additional $3 million in cuts included in the legislature fails to adopt a budget and the governor’s executive order is carried out.

Tom Condon | CTMirror.org

Former depot in Granby

“A decrease in state aid of the above magnitude cannot be addressed only by more transfers from the general fund as there are not enough funds,” Ward wrote. “Further contingency plans will be developed.”

See Granby’s response here.

Greenwich

The town of Greenwich provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have grown significantly over the last three years – from $25.7 million in 2015 to $36 million now, a 40 percent rise.

While Greenwich is the most affluent municipality in the state, the amount in its reserves was one of the lowest in the state. Before the increase in its reserves, the town had enough in its rainy-day fund to 6 percent of its operating budget.

See Greenwich’s response here.

Hamden

Hamden also provided only provide the size of its reserves. Those numbers show that the towns’ reserve levels – the fourth lowest in the state in 2015 – have grown by $900,000, which is a nearly 30 percent increase.

See Hamden’s response here.

Hampton

This small town of 1,800 residents has already regionalized many services, including animal control, appraisals and elderly transit.

“We left no stone unturned by analyzing all costs to Hampton,” writes First Selectman Allan Cahill.

If the town is hit with large state cuts, such as the teacher retirement costs as the governor proposes, the town would turn to its reserves.

He goes on to warn that all the cuts that would have to be made this fiscal year to balance the town’s budget “are not sustainable”.

See Hampton’s response here.

Harwinton

First Selectman Michael Criss wrote that the town’s goals of providing a great community to live in “is jeopardized by the State’s financial crisis.”

Deep cuts in education and road repair aid “would be crippling to our small town. This would result in a mill rate increase of at least two mills or more, if we were to maintain current serves.”

Draining the town’s reserves to cover the state cuts would mean that by next fiscal year it “would require us to borrow to just stay open.”

In an effort to avoid that, the town may have to start laying off its employees.

“To assume Harwinton can stomach such a cut in funding is foolish to say the least,” he wrote. “We are being punished for being fiscally responsible, while other towns and cities who have been fiscally irresponsible continue to get bailed out by the state. What the state does not seem to understand is that by trying to solve their crisis they are creating hundreds of more crises, which the the State will have to address.”

See Harwinton’s response here.

Hebron’s

Hubert Town Manager Andrew Tierney explained Hebron has one of the highest level of reserves in the state because it is saving up for an unnamed construction project.

However, if large cuts in state aid are approved at the state Capitol, the municipality will look to those reserves to close the shortfall.

“While the State’s budgetary problems are well understood, balancing these problems on the backs of Municipalities that have made continued difficult budget decision year after year will only further convolute issues at the local Municipal levels,” Tierney wrote.

See Hebrons’s response here.

Kent

Treasurer Barbara Herbst wrote shortly after the governor requested the information on Aug. 7 that the first selectman is on vacation through the end of August.

See Kent’s response here.

Killingworth

This small town adopted a budget for this fiscal year and expected no cut in state aid, as the governor’s budget recommend for Killingworth.

If state funding is ultimately cut, however, the town plans to raise taxes. If the legislature is unable to pass a budget, the governor’s executive order translates to an additional 4.2 mill rate increase on top of the 1.58 already increased this year.

“We simply don’t see any opportunities for appreciable savings in our town budget,” writes Catherine Iino, first selectwoman. “Our town has been extremely frugal.”

Also, she’s not sure whether her town even has the authority to make the regional district residents attend to make cuts.

“I hope you will remember that pushing costs onto the towns does not avert tax increases. State tax payers and town tax payers are the same people,” she wrote.

See Killingworth’s response here.

Lebanon

First Selectman Betsy Petrie explained there are several projects the  town has in queue to be completed by 2020 for a total cost of $14 million.

The town going into this fiscal year the town had enough reserves to cover nearly 20 percent of its operating budget, one of the highest rates in the state.

“Certainly, it is understood that times are difficult across this State. I cannot stress enough though that our prudent planning should not be a detriment to our Town. I hope that you concur,” Petrie wrote.

See Lebanon’s response here.

Ledyard

Mayor Fred Allyn said he is in talks with neighboring towns to regionalized “several key governmental services.”

If legislature is unable to adopt a budget, Ledyard warns the town “cannot bear” the size of funding cuts that are included in the governor’s executive order that will dictate state aid levels.

“Such a budget would deplete our unassigned fund balance AND require a 4 mill tax increase – just for this year,” Allyn writes.

One of the state’s casino’s – Foxwoods –  is located in this town.

“Ledyard has experienced gross mistreatment by the State in the continual inequitable distribution of the [state’s casino] fund,” he writes.

And finally, the mayor invited the governor and his staff to visit to see how the town operates.

See Ledyard’s response here.

Lisbon

The town of Lisbon provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves are expected to be cut in half over the last three years – from $1.8 million in 2015 to just under $900,000 this fiscal year.

In 2015, Lisbon’s reserves were big enough to cover 13 percent of its operating budget, which put them in the middle-of-the-pack among other municipalities in Connecticut.

See Lisbon’s response here.

Lyme

Lyme also provided nothing but how much it has in its rainy-day fund. Those figures show the town has increased their reserves by more than 50 percent over the last three years – from $1 million in 2015 to $1.6 million this fiscal year.

In 2015, Lyme’s reserves were enough to cover 9 percent of its operating budget, which puts them int he bottom third among municipalities in the state.

See Lyme’s response here.

Connecticut DEEP

Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison

Madison

First Selectman Thomas Banish writes that “He will do everything in my power” not to draw the towns reserves below to makeup for cuts in state aid. The town’s reserves were large enough to cover 12 percent of the town’s budget in 2015, and the amount in their reserves have not shifted since then.

Increasing taxes,s “is not something that I will contemplate as the people of Madison are already over-burdened with taxes,” Banish wrote. Madison’s tax rates were middle-of-the pack in 2015 among towns in Connecticut.

So that means cuts in state funding will be made up for with cuts in town services.

“We will have to cut spending to mitigate lost state aid and other negative impacts that we can’t anticipate as a result of this crisis,” Banish wrote.

See Madison’s response here.

Mansfield

If the state legislature does not adopt a budget, the governor’s executive order is set to cut 27 percent of this town’s budget.

Kyle Constable

Mansfield Community Center.

“A loss this substantial would be equivalent to a 13 mill increase (42%), or an increase of $2,011 in taxes to the median Mansfield homeowner,” wrote Interim Town Manager Maria Capriola. “Most certainly, revenue loss of this magnitude would be unable to be fully absorbed by a tax increase of that size.”

But the town has few other options given that Mansfield has more property than any other that is off limits to be taxed because state law forbids it. Also, 21 percent of the towns budget goes towards its share of a regional high school, so the town does not have autonomy over that spending. The town has been meeting with union leaders to see if there could be some savings, as well.

See Mansfield’s response here.

Meriden

Meriden’s fund balance has been steady at $16 million over the last three fiscal years. However, that amount is only enough to cover 8 percent of the town’s operating budget, one of the lower rates among municipalities in the state.

Meriden Green

And unexpected health care costs are expected to drain that fund by $303,000, which put the town “in a very vulnerable position in the event we have another year of higher than expected claims,” wrote Guy Scaife, the city manager.

See Meriden’s response here.

Middletown

Eleven teachers have been put on notice that they may be laid off if state funding cuts are too deep – which means elementary class sizes would likely rise from 18 students to 26 per class. Request to add two police officers “to respond to all calls in order to improve public safety” were denied.

“There is simply nowhere else to cut. Any state funding cut will likely result in tax increases and layoffs,” Drew writes. “Simply put, Middletown is a poor community that has managed its finances extremely well and lived within its means, and the policy implications of penalizing relatively poor communities for being fiscally responsible with local budgets sets a dangerous precedent for the future.”

Middletown’s reserve levels going into fiscal 2016 were among the highest among municipalities in the state. And the size of the reserves have increased in recent years – from $21 million in 2015 to $24 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

See Middletown’s response here.

Milford

Mayor Benjamin Blake called the cuts in the governor’s executive order “draconian”  that would lead to an “unimaginably colossal tax increase.”

“While other communities foolishly spent their money on frills and short-term fixes, Milford conservatively chose to fund substantive projects that grow your public infrastructure and encourage investment in our tax base,” he wrote the governor’s budget chief. “It now appears we have been victimized by our many years of frugality and prudent management… The governor’s recommended budget appears to reward poor fiscal management while penalizing the successes of local budgeting.

He added that the governor has “sent a loud and unambiguous message” that the state will “Come down on [well-run towns] like a ton of bricks.”

In 2015, Milford had one of the smaller rainy-day funds in the state  with $16 million, which is enough to cover 8 percent of its operating budget. But that fund has sizably grown since then, and the town had $24 million in unassigned reserves going into this fiscal year.

See Milford’s response here.

Monroe

The town of Monroe provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have grown substantially over the last three years – from $6.2 million in 2015 to $10.6 million going into the fiscal year that began July 1.

In 2015, the town’s reserves were enough to cover 7 percent of their operating expenses, one of the smaller levels among municipalities in Connecticut.

See Monroe’s response here.

Naugatuck

This small town anticipates flat funding from the state, which is not a safe bet if the state does not adopt a budget and the governor’s executive order plays out.

The town’s rainy-day fund since fiscal 2015 has dropped from from nearly $14 million – which was enough to cover 12 percent of its operating costs – to $8.6 million going into the fiscal year that began July 1.

See Naugatucks’s response here.

New Hartford

First selectman Daniel Jerram wrote to say that voters would never approve the tax increases that would be necessary if the legislature does not adopt a budget and the deep cuts in the governor’s executive order plays out.

“Our residents cannot afford this type of tax increase,” he wrote.

So, the town would be forced to substantially reduce teaching positions and other town positions, including police officers.

See New Hartford’s response here.

Newington

When Newington had $16 million in its rainy-day fund it had one of the higher level of reserves among municipalities in the state. However, now the town is bracing for that fund to be cut in half this fiscal year.

See Newington’s response here.

Newtown

Newtown – whose rainy-day fund is middle-of-the-pack among municipalities in the state – is one of the wealthier communities in the state.

First Selectman Patricia Llodra calls the cuts that would go into effect if no budget is adopted and the governor’s executive order dictates funding levels “draconian” that would lead many towns into a “downward spiral.”

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org

Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra addresses reporters Wednesday at the Capitol

“We cannot help but feel that our strong efforts over the past few years to gain solid financial footing, grow our fund balance, and reduce debt will serve us badly – that we are going to be punished, not rewarded, for our good behavior,” she wrote.

“…We can do the state no good if we are weakened, if our financial status is compromised and we become unable to provide quality services at a reasonable tax love.”

Llodra said Newtown is prepared to phase out state aid over several years since “We know that is likely our future.” The town passed a budget assuming its state aid would be cut 30 percent this fiscal year. But, she added, a larger mid-year cut than that is not reasonable.

“We can face this looming challenge head on and we can find ways to accommodate the impacts – but only if we are given the change to plan forward,” she wrote.

See Newtown’s response here.

North Branford

The town of Branford provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have been stable over the last three years at $5.9 million, which is enough to cover about 11 percent of the town’s operating costs.

See North Branford’s response here.

NEC Commission

The Walk Bridge, a rail swing bridge over the Norwalk River, is shown in the open position.

Norwalk

Norwalk had more in its reserves in fiscal 2015 than any other municipality in Connecticut – by far. However, as a percentage of its overall costs, the town is middle-of-the-pack.

But since 2015 the town’s rainy-day fund that isn’t already dedicated to certain projects has increased substantially, from $42 million to $52 million this fiscal year.

And if the town ends up losing state aid, the reserves “would be reduced by the amount of the cuts” wrote Robert Barron, the city’s director of finance.

See Norwalk’s response here.

Norwich

Norwich’s adopted budge assumes flat funding – a risky assumption given the governor is dedicated to cutting municipal aid. Also, if the legislature does not adopt a budget soon, cuts to the community and others will be deep.

The budget stalemate at the state Capitol the city manager will likely result in layoffs.

“The uncertainty from the budget impasse is very detrimental for morale and management of departments,” John Salomone wrote.

The town is also ill suited to make cuts, given one-third of its spending goes toward tuition for its students to attend high school, and costs are out of their control.

Foreseeing cuts headed their way, Norwich cancelled summer school this past summer despite the district being one of the lowest-achieving in the state. The town is planning to tap its reserves or make further cuts, if sate aid is ultimately cut.

See Norwich’s response here.

Old Saybrook

The town of Old Saybrook provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have increased by 50 percent over the last three years – from $3.5 million in 2015 to $5.2 going into this fiscal year.

That level of reserves was enough to cover 8 percent of the town’s operating costs, which is on the small side compared to other towns.

See Old Saybrook’s response here.

Orange

The town has already raised its mill rate for motor vehicles for this fiscal year to offset some minor cuts in state aid. However, if deeper cuts are ultimately incurred, the board of finance “would have to decide whether to drain the Fund Balance or send out a supplemental tax bill or a combination of the two.”

The town’s rainy day fund has been stable at $9.4 million for the last several year, which was enough to cover 15 percent of the town’s operating costs in 2015.

See Orange’s response here.

Oxford

The town of Oxford provided nothing but how much is in their rainy-day fund. Those figures show the unassigned reserves were $6 million going into this fiscal year that began July 1.

See Oxford’s response here.

Pomfret

Pomfret has adopted a budget that accounts for a sizable cut in state aid, and a 10 percent tax increase.

If no state budget is adopted, and the cuts in town aid that are in the governor’s executive order are realized, “The bottom line is that Pomfret might have to expend 60 percent of its unassigned fund balance in one year,” wrote First Selectman Craig Baldwin.

And if state aid doesn’t rebound next year, the town will have to raise taxes by 20 percent or completely drain its fund balance.

“We understand the state is in crisis and we will need to be part of the solution. But we should not be penalized for following prudent financial strategies, exercising operational restrain over several years,”  Baldwin wrote.

The town’s reserves have been stable over the last several year. With $1.5 million in its reserves in 2015, the town had enough to cover 11 percent of its operating costs, which is middle-of-the-pack among municipalities.

See Pomfret’s response here.

Connecticut DEEP

Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding

Redding

“I won’t beat around the bush,” First Selectman Julia Pemberton writes the governor’s budget chief. “I see a request like this as precursor to a reduction in municipal aid to my community.”

“…Quite frankly, this is an outrageous approach to governing. The Governor has said in the past that he opposes tax increases in this budget, and yet, the proposed scale of reductions to municipal aid will force municipal leader in many towns to do just that, or to make drastic cuts in services.”

She also took issue that the governor has said the burden needs to start falling on more affluent communities, not just impoverished ones.

“Really? Redding residents paid $38,950,565 in income taxes to the State of Connecticut in 2015. What does Redding receive in municipal aid for every dollar paid in income taxes? Pennies,” she continued.

She did not provide the data on reserve levels that the governor’s office requested.

See Redding’s response here.

Rocky Hill

The town of Rocky Hill provided nothing but numbers to the governor’s budget office. Those numbers show their reserves have been stable over the last three years at $5.2 million, which was enough to cover 5 percent of its costs in 2015. That was one of the smallest levels in the state.

See Rocky Hill’s response here.

Roxbury

“I do not know how the Governor can say that we have been shielded from the difficult choices when our aid – the little that we now receive – has decreased over the past five years,” wrote First Selectman Barbara Henry.

Henry reports that his small town has a $2.3 million rainy-day fund – which is enough to cover two months of their operating costs.

“I have to ask what the end game is by requesting this information,” she wrote. “I guess what disturbs me most is that we strive to run as efficiently as we can and not pass unnecessary projects and debt onto our taxpayers. And because we have been able to accomplish this goal, we will be penalized by the State for the long run. I hope this is not the case.”

See Roxbury’s response here.

Scotland

“It is obvious that Scotland will become financially insolvent by the end of the fiscal year,” writes First Selectman Daniel Syme.

But, there is a huge caveat to that statement.

That’s only if the town refuses to reduce its spending or raise taxes.

If the legislature does not adopt a budget soon, the town is on pace to lose just of $1 million, but the town has just $652,000 in its reserves.

If the local taxes were to makeup for a $1 million state cut, taxes would need to be raised 9.3 mills.

“There is no way the voters of Scotland would approve a 9.3 mill increase to cover municipal aid reductions. Through public hearings discussing the proposed budget if was made clear to the Selectmen that a town budget with a significant property tax increase will not pass,” Syme wrote.

See Scotland’s response here.

Sharon

“I will spare you a long drawn out sob story, you’ll wade through plenty of those from others,” wrote First Selectman Brent Colley.

Instead, he aimed to share the impact state mandates have on small towns.

“Cutting our ECS allotment isn’t impactful, what is are the education law we are required to follow,” he wrote. “Please consider lessening regulation, testing, and overall reporting requirements.”

He also warned against false impressions of his town.

“You may get the sense that we’re ‘rich’ and ‘all is well.’ We’re not and it’s not,” he continued, pointing out that growing tax rates are crowding out affordable housing.

See Sharon’s response here.

Simsbury

The town has already increased taxes by 1.5 mills to raise $3 million  in the event the town loses state aid. Given that the governor has proposed cuts well beyond that level, the town has informed residents that further increases may be necessary.

The town started the fiscal year with $11.6 million in reserves, enough to cover 12 percent of its operating budget. That rainy-day fund would need to be drawn down, as well, if state cuts are deeper than budgeted.

See Simsbury’s response here.

South Windsor

Proposed funding levels “have devastated and severely hampered” the town, reports the town manager.

The town started the fiscal year July 1st “with a spending freeze, only approving essential expenditure.”

The town is also holding off on sending out car tax bills.

“We do not deserve to have our services and financial future negatively impacted by the States financial crisis that we have no control over,”  Matthew Galligan wrote.

Failure by the state to address crumbling foundation, education costs and health and pension costs, “are likely to result in suburbs like South Windsor as the next financial concern to address.”

See South Windsor’s response here.

Southington

The town has implemented a hiring freeze and is in the process of renegotiating contracts with its labor unions. The schools have already reduced staff by 14 full-time positions and further cuts may lead to reduction in tutoring serves.

The town’s reserves have grown in recent year – from $17.8 million in 2015, which was enough to cover 12 percent of the town’s operating costs to $20 million going into this fiscal year.

See Southington’s response here.

this is a picture of Sen. Cathy Osten

CTMirror.org file photo

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague

Southbury

The town provided the size of its reserves to the governor’s budget office – from $700,000 in 2015 to $1.7 million going into the fiscal year that began July 1.

And it the governor’s budget proposal is adopted, the town response that its reserves “will be ZERO and an additional tax bill will be sent out!”

See Southbury’s response here.

Sprague

Sprague will make up for state cuts by looking to reduce library hours, the center center and review the state resident trooper program.

“Once all options are reviewed for efficiency, we would return to the tax payers for a possible increase in a mill rate. This option is not preferred as most residents have minimal ability to pay such an increase,” wrote First Selectman Catherine Osten, who is also a state senator and co-chairwoman of the legislature’s powerful budget writing committee.

See Sprague’s response here.

Stonington

“The state has an obligation to release its municipalities from some of the onerous mandates under which we have struggle for year,” First Selectman Robert Simmons wrote.

“We could have saved millions ” if state law didn’t require the town to pay prevailing wages when building its two new schools. Also, the town has been in arbitration with a union for two years, costing the town hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Yet, the state gives us no relief from this ridiculously slow process.”

… The list goes on.”

On expecting towns to use their reserves, “Is not just unfair, it is tantamount to theft.”

See Stonington’s response here.

Plainfield

“Plainfield did not have anything to do with your current fiscal mess,” First Selectman Paul Sweet wrote. “But instead, let’s blame the towns and cities for your lack of fiscal restraint and stubborn position on structural change. Cutting municipal aid is just passing your mismanagement to the Towns and Cities.”

Cuts from the state would be “nothing but a tax increase and service-cutting proposal!”

And then he calls for top lawmakers to resign.

“People on the street and people serving the Towns and cities in my capacity would want nothing more than the whole House and Senate to resign, including the Governor and all of his overpaid cabinet. I am so disappointed in all of you.”

See Plainfield’s response here.

Thomaston

This small town has adopted a budget that assumes a $700,000 cut in state aid, for which the town made up for by reducing its reserves by the same level.

While voters have already rejected previous tax increases for this year, the first selectman says any deeper cuts in state aid would force him to again ask voters to raise taxes.

See Thomaston’s response here.

Tolland

Tolland will run into cash-flow problems by the first of the year.

“We have determined that based on current cash flow projections we cannot go beyond January without an infusion of dollars or we will be cash poor,” wrote Steven Werner. “Tolland is in the perfect storm scenario”

To make up for the loss the governor has proposed, the town would need to increase taxes by 20 percent, or 7 mills. If looked to cutting education costs, 40 of the 300 school staff  would have to be laid off.

“This type of structural change is almost impossible,” Werner writes.

The town’s went into this fiscal year with $6 million in undedicated reserves. If no state budget is adopted, Tolland is on pace to lose $8.9 million throughout the fiscal year under the governor’s executive order.

See Tolland’s response here.

Votuntown

“The residents of this Town cannot absorb any further tax increases due to the State’s inability to manage their own finances,” wrote First Selectman Robert Sirpenski.

If no state budget is adopted, this town is on pace to lose $1.3 million throughout the fiscal year – which equates to a tax increase of 8 mills, a 29 percent boost.

He says the town’s local elementary school would “have to bear the burden of this cut.”

“The town has no police force, no resident trooper, and only three full time employees.”

See Voluntown’s response here.

Washington

The town of Washington provided nothing but the size of its reserves – $3.3 million going into this fiscal year, which is up from $2.6 million two years ago.

Two year’s ago that rainy-day level was enough to cover 18 percent of its operating budget, which was one of the highest rates in the state.

See Washington’s response here.

Waterbury

Among the towns that responded, Waterbury was the only one to voice support for the governor’s budget.

“The recalibration of Sate aid resulting in a more equitable distribution and investment in Waterbury is critical to our City and certainly to other large urban centers throughout the state,” the town responded.

See Waterbury’s response here.

Waterford

Waterford’s budget assumes it will no longer receive any state aid through the state’s primary program for education aid, the Education Cost Sharing Grant.

The town’s reserves have grown in recent years – from $10 million in 2015 to $11 million at the start of the fiscal year that began July 1.

At $10 million, the town had enough to cover nearly 12 percent of its operating costs, which put them in the middle for the health of its reserves.

See Waterford’s response here.

Watertown

The town of Watertown provided only the size of their rainy-day fund – which shows it has shrunk considerably from $7.3 million in 2015 to $5.4 million at the start of this fiscal year.

At $7.3 million, the reserves were large enough to cover 10 percent of the town’s operating costs, which is about the median among other municipalities.

See Watertown’s response here.

West Hartford

Town Manager Matthew Hart wrote to say the town cannot handle a massive reduction in state aid.

If no state budget is adopted, West Hartford is on pace to lose $24 million in state funding throughout the fiscal year under the governor’s executive order.

“It is critical that the state’s action be guided by the realty rather than the perception of West Hartford,” he wrote, pointing out the native language of one-in-five students in the town’s public school’s is not English, as is the rate students who come from a low-income family.

“Despite its reputation for being wealthy, West Hartford taxpayers, with varying demographic and economic backgrounds, cannot sustain such a dramatic increase in its tax burden.”

The town did not give specifics for how it would make up for a $24 million cut if no budget is adopted.

The town had $21.9 million in its rainy-day funding going into this fiscal year, which is enough to cover less than 8 percent of its costs.

See West Hartford’s response here.

Westbrook

The town of Westbrook provided nothing more than the size of its reserves – at $4.2 has been stable over the last several years.

That was enough to cover 15 percent of their operating costs, one of the highest rates in the state.

See Westbrook’s response here.

Wethersfield

“Towns such as Wethersfield, who have taken an aggressive approach to reducing short and long term costs, will now be punished for the effective stewardship and community leadership local offcials have provided to their towns.”

See Wethersfield’s response here.

Winchester

“Town management and the Selectmen have behaved in a fiscally responsible manner in adopting the fiscal 2018 budget. Dysfunction in the state budget process should not harm the Town in its effort to operate the town and the school system according to sound fiscal principles…”

See Winchester’s response here.

Windham

If no state budget is adopted, this small low-income town will likely have cash-flow problems under the governor’ s executive order.

“This loss would need to be drawn from fund balance until the state passes a budget,” Christian Johnson wrote, pointing out the size of the cut would shrink the town’s reserves in half. “This could seriously impact our ability to fund payroll and accounts payable during certain points in the year.”

But, the town does not plan to raise taxes.

See Windham’s response here.

Windsor

Local taxpayers have already rejected a 4 percent increase in taxes and tapping $900,000 in reserves to offset an estimated 7 percent cut in state aid.  

Windsor, which has one of the lowest-achieving districts in the state, cancelled summer school classes, and is considering reducing school staff by 7 full-time positions.

Windsor had nearly $19 million in rainy-day funds in 2015, which would cover 18 percent of its operating costs, one of the highest rates in the state. Since then, the town’s reserves have grown to $21 million at the start of this fiscal year.

See Windsor’s response here.

Windsor Locks

This town has an eroding rainy-day fund.

“Any reduction in state funding will lead to the elimination of programs, building closures and lay-offs,” wrote First Selectman J. Chirstopher Kervick. “If we use our Fund Balance to pay for necessary expenditures we will deplete it completely in just two or three years… The benefits of our austere fiscal management will be lost, and we will have no choice but to look to the state for salvation.”

See Windsor Lock’s response here.

Wolcott

This town has already increased taxes by 2.36 mills this fiscal year, an 8 percent increase. If the town loses $7.5 million, which is less than the governor’s executive order would impose if no state budget is adopted, the town would have to increase taxes by another 6 mills.

See Wolcott’s response here.

 

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