Municipal Lobby Cries Foul
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities sent a terse three paragraph letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director Monday asking for an explanation of what it believes are spending cuts to cities and towns.
Under Connecticut law, Malloy is not able to cut municipal aid without the help of the lawmakers, but James Finley, executive director and CEO of CCM, said about $4.7 million of the $170 million in rescissions the governor announced in November fall into the category of municipal aid.
Finely pointed to a $19,500 rescission to elderly tax relief, a $1 million cut in grants to priority school districts, a $577,000 cut to school health clinics, and a dozen more spending cuts targeted at municipalities.
“CCM respectfully requests an explanation of why OPM believes these programs are exempt from the statutory prohibition against cutting municipal aid by gubernatorial rescission,” Finley wrote in this letter to Budget Secretary Ben Barnes.
Barnes, who used to work for Finley at CCM, said he doesn’t believe the rescissions are inappropriate.
“We interpret the statute to prohibit rescissions against statutory formula grants,“ Barnes said in an emailed statement. “Moreover, most of these rescissions are of funds expected to lapse, and so will not impact CCM members.”
Municipal aid amounts to about 14.2 percent of the entire $19.4 billion state budget. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to close an estimated $365 million deficit later this month. They met in private Monday evening at the state Capitol to discuss the framework Malloy laid out at the end of last week.
Malloy, a former mayor, has been reluctant to cut municipal aid during his first two years in office, but with an estimated $2.2 billion deficit over the next two years he’s not making any promises.
When Malloy first took office in 2011, his first two-year budget held towns harmless for the loss of federal stimulus funds that helped prop up the state’s share of the Education Cost Sharing grant. The ECS grant is the largest portion of revenue for most local budgets. Last year, Malloy added $50 million to the grant and formed a task force to come up with a better way of calculating how much municipalities receive from the state for education funding.
Also last year, under Malloy’s budget, 130 municipalities saw their ECS grants increase, while 39 towns saw theirs remain the same and no municipality saw their funding decrease.
Malloy was mayor of Stamford for 14 years before becoming governor.
He often talks about his understanding that cuts to municipalities will be passed on as property tax increases to Connecticut residents.