West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka said he’s concerned about the lack of urgency from state lawmakers in dealing with some of the budget issues a coalition of medium-sized cities and towns would like to see moved to the top of the agenda.
“Unfunded mandates are what kill us,” East Hartford Mayor Melody Currey said Thursday at a Capitol press conference.
Currey and Slifka, along with the mayors from 18 other mid-sized cities and towns, said they would like to see the state suspend for two years all unfunded mandates, delay property revaluations, maintain level state funding, and allow public notices to be published on town web sites instead of newspapers.
Almost all of those suggestions were included in a Republican amendment Wednesday night, which failed mostly along party lines in the House where 109 Democrats voted against it.
James Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, thanked the Republican minority Thursday afternoon for offering the amendment.
“It was an early vote in their session,” Currey, a former state lawmaker and lifelong Democrat, said. “It doesn’t mean it won’t come back as a Democratic idea.”
How much do some of these unfunded mandates cost?
Slifka said if West Hartford didn’t have to publish its public notices in newspapers, it would save an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 a year.
Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said he’s concerned about the raise the age law which says 16 and 17-year-olds charged with crimes need to be physically separate from the rest of the population being held by police. He said Middletown just built a new public safety complex a few years ago and this unfunded mandate would require it to make physical changes to the building.
A CCM handout says all the unfunded and partially funded mandates for Bristol Schools amounted to $14.7 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year.
What are they anticipating?
Currey who must finish her town’s budget proposal by Feb. 23 said she’s already asked her directors to come to her with budget reductions as high as five percent on the town side. As far as the town’s Education Cost Sharing grant is concerned, Currey said she’s optimistic the state will continue to fund it at the same level as it did last year, but will be watching Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Feb. 4 budget address very closely.
Currey said she remains optimistic the state will maintain its ECS funding for East Hartford, but Slifka was a little less optimistic saying he’s already figured in a reduction in state aid. He said this year’s town budget will be built on a $4 million decrease in state revenue. He said those numbers are based on early indications that the state Board of Education may have to cut its budget by 10 percent.