City moves closer to finalizing budget, despite uncertainty at state level
The city of Shelton has moved that much closer to submitting a final budget, as the Board of Apportionment and Taxation (A&T) passed along its recommendations to the Board of Aldermen (BOA) on Thursday of last week.
Despite all the panic and confusion felt throughout many towns and cities within the state as a result of the governor’s proposed cuts to education and state funding, BOA President John Anglace said the city will file a budget by the end of the month.
In accordance with the city charter, the BOA will now have until May 31 to review the Board of A&T’s recommended changes before it adopts a budget, sets a tax rate and files the budget with the city’s director of finance.
Anglace said the BOA will have its first public hearing on Thursday, May 4, at 7 p.m. in city hall to discuss the Board of A&T’s recommendation “line item by line item.”
“I don’t see a lot of change coming out of it, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Anglace. “I have never seen a budget process this ‘deep in the dark.’ We’re trying to keep our city going forward and our education going forward, but you just can’t plan with this kind of a disaster hanging over our head. I don’t know what we’re going to do. In 30 days a lot can happen, and for the state’s sake, I hope it does.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chris Clouet acknowledged the possible negative impacts the governor’s proposal could have on Shelton’s education, but is remaining optimistic.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, unfortunately, but we’re still working closely with the city and are prepared to make things work,” said Clouet.
Board of A&T recommendation
The most significant change in the board of A&T’s recommended budget was the $519,574 addition in funding to the city’s Board of Education.
The Board of A&T proposed that the city cut the police private duty account by $350,000. The remaining $169,574 would be made up of other, smaller cuts to city departments, including another $73,576 cut to the city’s building department.
Anglace said the board’s recommendations will all be taken into consideration, but said the addition to the education budget doesn’t make sense because it would require Shelton to cut a portion of the private duty account.
“If you’re going to take $500,000 out of the expenditure side, then you also have to remove $500,000 from the revenue side, and that just hasn’t been done,” said Anglace. “This particular recommendation isn’t practical.”
Anglace said the city is working as a unit to produce the best possible budget for this scenario, but with no idea what the state’s budget will be, its hands are tied.
“The state is talking about cutting our budget by $7.6 million minimum. If that comes to pass, which is what the governor recommended, that will be a major impact on our budget and how we do business,” said Anglace. “We’re only growing the grand list by $1.5 million, so that would leave us a terrible gap. That’s why we’re trying to remain optimistic but also very guarded.”
‘Confident Connecticut budget’
Months after Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed a budget that would cut Shelton’s Education Cost Sharing grant by millions and would force the city to pay for one-third of its teachers’ pensions, the Senate and House of Representatives presented an alternative.
The state’s Republican senators and representatives expect that their proposal would close the current projected state deficit over the next two years without the need for new taxes or shifting state expenses onto towns, cities or hospitals. The “Confident Connecticut budget” includes increased education funding with a new funding formula, restores money for social services, and provides for significant structural changes to state government that roll out into the future.
The budget would restore $3.8 million in education losses to the city as well as another $3.7 million as a result of removing the governor’s proposal that Shelton be responsible for paying one-third of its teachers’ retirement pension. In prior years, the state fully funded teachers’ pensions.
The Confident Connecticut budget proposal doesn’t include the shifting of teachers’ pension costs back onto the municipalities, cancels bonding $250 million for improvements to the XL Center, requires $700 million in union concessions, maintains tax-exempt status for hospitals, consolidates state agencies, phases out the income tax on pensions and annuity income, and exempts Social Security from the income tax for middle-income seniors.
“Getting Connecticut back on track after so many years of negligent fiscal mismanagement will be a lengthy process,” said state Rep. Jason Perillo (R-113). “But this budget proposal puts our state’s priorities back into focus, and makes some honest and difficult choices. But it lays the essential groundwork of producing a fiscal landscape that will encourage growth, employment and development.”