New state budget not good for Wilton

Gov. Dannel Malloy released a revised budget proposal Monday, May 15, that shows no love for towns like Wilton.

In the budget he proposed in February for fiscal year 2018, Wilton would have received $1,571,022 in total state aid. That number was revised downward to $523,337 in the budget released this week.

The numbers for fiscal year 2019 are no better. The original proposed budget had $1,495,758 in state aid for Wilton, which was cut to $448,073.

Wilton is not alone in seeing state aid cut. State aid to or on behalf of local government dropped from $5.019 billion in the governor’s original fiscal year 18 budget to $4.657 billion in his revised fiscal year 18 budget.

It also dropped from $5.024 billion in the originally proposed fiscal year 19 budget to $4.676 billion in the revised fiscal year 19 budget.

The biggest hit came in the area of special education. The governor’s original budget included $431,204, for fiscal years 18 and 19, but his revised budget zeroed out that amount for both years. The town was scheduled to get nothing under the Education Cost Sharing grant in the governor’s original budget and that did not change.

The other big cut came in the Municipal Revenue Sharing Grant, known as MRSF. The town was scheduled to get $547,338 both fiscal years, and that was also cut to zero.

The governor’s budget still includes having towns reimburse the state for the teachers’ retirement fund. For Wilton, that amounts to $3,923,149 in both fiscal years 18 and 19, down slightly from what the governor originally proposed.

Taking into account what the town will receive from the state, such as road aid and Local Capital Improvement (LoCIP) funds, and then applying the pension fund payment, that leaves Wilton in the hole for $3.39 million in fiscal year 18 and $3.47 million in fiscal year 19.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice noted the governor’s revised budget included just over $1 million in proposed reductions in aid to Wilton.

“We anticipated additional reductions when developing the FY 2018 budget, as such the shortfall in our budget would be just over $400,000,” she said in an email to The Bulletin on Monday.

“The governor’s budget continues to reflect one-third of the cost of the teacher pension contribution being absorbed by Wilton,” she added. “We did not include that amount in the 2018 budget. The governor and the legislature have a responsibility to work together to address the state’s problems. I hope we will see more effort coming out of Hartford in the next few days and weeks.”

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) was disappointed, to say the least, in the governor’s latest proposal. She was especially unhappy he has kept the teachers’ pension obligation with the towns.

“It’s a terrible proposal because the residents of the towns are already taxed by the state to pay for the state’s contributions [to the pension fund],” she told The Bulletin on Monday. “Now the towns are responsible … but those are exactly the same people. This is obliging the towns to raise property taxes and people’s taxes are being raised a whole lot.

“It is disingenuous and misleading and very expensive,” she continued. “If the legislature is to condone this, they will be acting as advocates for the state employees’ union. It’s unacceptable.”

Lavielle added she did not know anyone in the legislature who likes this proposal.

The Republicans, she said, will be releasing their revised proposed budget soon. The party had presented a proposed budget last month that did not raise taxes, but it went “out of balance” when new financial shortfalls were discovered.

The new Republican budget, she said, still will not raise taxes, but relies, as does Malloy’s, on him getting the union concessions he said he would deliver. Those amount to about $700 million in fiscal year 18 and more than $800 million in fiscal year 19. The Republican budget preserves education funding and does not have the pension burden. It does eliminate MRSF aid to towns and cuts many line items.

Lavielle was also unhappy to discover Malloy cut Wilton’s special education funds.

“That’s just horrible,” she said. “That’s the most unpredictable and accelerating cost we have in Wilton.”

A press release from the governor’s office said his updated budget was “designed to maintain the administration’s goals of providing more fiscal stability and predictability for taxpayer, businesses, and local governments, while continuing to bolster the state’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs.”

Noting lower-than-expected revenue in April, Malloy said, “This session, the best outcome we can achieve for the people of the state is to adopt a responsible, balanced budget that does not rely heavily on new or increased taxes.”