TOWNS SEE LOOMING SHORTFALLS
By Betsy Gara
Town leaders are anxiously crunching numbers as they review Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget. Given the size of the budget deficit, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns applauds the intent of the governor's proposed budget — to keep towns whole. We also support the focus on increasing investment in local infrastructure. Well-maintained roads and bridges are vital to Connecticut's small towns and the state's overall economic growth.
We are, however, nervous about how shifting funding from the Pequot Mohegan grant and the state property Payment In Lieu Of Taxes program will affect the bottom line in our small towns — particularly given lawmakers' concerns about borrowing levels.
Unfortunately, cautious optimism that our municipal bottom lines would remain intact gave way to despair with the proposed elimination of the car tax. Without that revenue, towns will be left with massive holes in their budgets — holes that will be plugged by increasing tax rates on homeowners and businesses or cuts in critical services.
In addition, mandate relief must be on the table this session. State mandates make it almost impossible to negotiate meaningful savings in education and personnel costs. The governor and lawmakers must keep towns whole, maintain the car tax and give us the tools to control local costs.
Betsy Gara is the executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, which includes towns with populations of less than 30,000.
A BUDGET BALANCED IN WONDERLAND
By John DeStefano Jr.
"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." — Lewis Carroll, "Alice in Wonderland."
So here are the six impossible things to believe about Connecticut's proposed state budget.
First, believe that this isn't the state balancing its budget by raising city and town property taxes.
Second, believe that eliminating the funding for the payments in lieu of taxes on state property is good for our cities, where most of the state's jobs and buildings are located.
Third, believe the shell game of funding in the budget will really support desperately needed school reform in our state.
Fourth, believe that the car tax is going to just — "poof" — disappear.
Fifth, believe that someone in state government even thought to talk with your mayor or first selectman about any of this.
And finally, believe that there is a plan here to grow jobs in our dismal Connecticut economic landscape.
As is written in "Alice in Wonderland," "You would have to be half mad to dream me up." Dream on, Nutmeggers.
John DeStefano Jr. is mayor of New Haven.
UNEMPLOYMENT, DEFICITS CHIEF CHALLENGES