Governor signs budget that preserves some town funding

A state budget signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Tuesday, Oct. 31, would spare Wilton the deep cuts that had been threatened during budget battles between the governor and legislature since February. The senate passed the budget in the early morning hours of Oct. 26 by a vote of 33-3, followed later in the day by a 126-23 vote in the house.

All of Wilton’s representatives — Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) and Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O’Dea (R-125) — voted  in favor of the $41.3-billion two-year plan.

With a budget in place, the governor’s executive order by which he directed state spending, is no longer in effect. That included dramatic funding cuts for town aid, education, and core social services.

This budget would reduce Wilton’s overall municipal state aid from $1,477,817 in fiscal year 2017 to $1,403,927 in fiscal year 2018, according to statistics provided by the Connecticut Mirror. That is a drop of $73,890 or 5%.

State aid would be further reduced to $1,354,725 in fiscal year 2019, a decrease of $123,092 from fiscal year 2017.

Part of that decline comes in the form of the Education Cost Sharing Grant, which would decline 5% for Wilton from $462,941 in fiscal year 2017 to $439,794 in fiscal year 2018. It would rise again in fiscal year 2019 to $463,349.

The budget also does not require towns and cities to pay into the state teachers pension fund.

Under grants for municipal projects, Wilton would see no change, receiving $307,058 in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the same as it received in fiscal year 2017.

Town road aid would also see no change at $316,218 in each of those fiscal years.

“I was incredibly torn about voting for this budget after Republicans’ earlier legislative victory,” Boucher said in a press release. “I could have walked away and said ‘no’ to compromise. Connecticut is at a critical juncture and walking away would have assured the financial ruin of our state. To allow 88 communities to be stripped of their education funding and the inevitable massive increase in property taxes would have been an unconscionable dereliction of duty. It also would have meant not getting some of the important structural changes that are included in this compromise.”

Lavielle expressed a similar sentiment. “This budget was the best alternative to both the governor’s executive order — which decimated local education funding — and a compromise budget between the governor and majority Democrats, which would likely have contained several major tax increases and still shifted teacher pension costs onto towns,” she said.

“While the compromise budget contains serious shortcomings that fall short of our goals, it also provides important structural reforms and does not force property taxpayers to bear the cost of years of irresponsible fiscal policies.”

Both legislators pointed out some reforms included in the budget:

  • A spending cap.

  • A bonding cap

  • A mandatory legislative vote on all future union contracts.

  • Replenishment of the Special Transportation Fund without enacting tolls.

  • Elimination of the income tax on Social Security and private pensions for middle-income retirees.

  • Municipal mandate relief.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but this budget will begin the process of setting the state on a more responsible fiscal path when it becomes law,” Lavielle said.