Municipal leaders were excited that Gov. M. Jodi Rell put property tax reform at the top of the agenda again Wednesday when she unveiled a plan to cap municipal tax increases, but they didn’t necessarily agree with her plan to accomplish it.
“The governor has begun a serious discussion now it’s up to the legislature to fill in the gaps,” Herb Rosenthal (pictured), the Newtown first selectman and president of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said Thursday.
In order for municipalities to accept a 3 percent cap on the only tax they can raise, Rosenthal said the state needs to fully fund all its grants to cities and towns.
Southington Town Manager John Weichsel said Rell’s cap is “artificial” and gives no consideration “to the real world.”
“The cap does not recognize reality that at least everything else should be funded,” he said.
Rosenthal said the cap sets up an expectation and what happens if you can’t deliver on it.
While Rell’s proposal set up some exceptions to the three percent cap, it didn’t seem to take into consideration the cost drivers in municipal budgets like the rising special education, health care and energy costs, Rep. Cameron Staples, D-New Haven, said Wednesday.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said “When the governor first proposed her budget, I praised her for what appeared to be significant new dollars tied to ECS funding for education. Then it was revealed that the governor had removed the requirement that the ECS dollars actually be used for education.”
He said Rell’s cap on municipal spending “makes it even more likely that towns will be forced to raid education dollars to pay other municipal expenses.”
The legislature’s Education Committee passed a bill this Monday that directly ties education spending to property tax reform. The committee’s plan ranked towns based on the amount of money they now spend per student and decided that the lowest-spending towns will be required to spend the highest-percentage of the new state money on education with the remainder going to property tax relief.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert Genuario said Wednesday that the governor plans on using Rule 9 of the legislature’s Joint Rules as the vehicle to introduce the proposal to cap local property taxes. The bill will not receive a public hearing since many of the committees have reached their deadline to evaluate bills.