More than a handful of municipal leaders told the legislature’s Appropriation’s Committee Wednesday that they appreciate the additional education funding Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave most towns in the budget, but there’s more they can do to help local taxpayers.
President of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman told the committee that they appreciate the focus on “education reform and job creation,” but they‘re looking for more.
Glassman reiterated the group’s desire to focus more on education finance reform “to ensure that education is financed adequately and equitably by the state.”
“Until such task is undertaken, adding more layers of well-intentioned but unfunded mandates on already burdened local districts is unfair and shortsighted,” Glassman said.
Also while the governor has stepped up his commitment to education funding, the cost of special education has grown significantly.
Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch submitted testimony to the committee which said that special education costs rise by 5 to 6 percent per year.
“These are staggering numbers when municipalities pay about 60 percent of these costs and have to rely on a very regressive property tax to make up the different,” Finch said.
The excess cost grant, which helps fund special education, has remained at $139 million for the past three years and Malloy’s budget does not include an increase. Municipalities pay about 60 percent of the costs, the state pays 30 percent, and the federal government pays 10 percent.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities found the cost of special education services surpassed the $1.7 billion mark and spending accounts for over 21 percent of total current education expenditures.
“Unforeseen demands for special education services too often result in local budget adjustments, supplementary appropriations, and other extraordinary measures. This is particularly troublesome in smaller towns, where the addition of even one special-needs student can decimate a budget,” CCM points out.
A 2006 Office of Legislative Research report found that in 37 states landlords may dispose of personal property that a tenant leaves behind after first notifying the tenant of his intent and storing the property for a period prior to the sale.
“Colorado is the only state we identified where landlords have no duty to store property that tenants leave behind. Connecticut, Virginia, and Washington are the only states that we found that permit tenants’ property to be placed on a street, sidewalk, or other public property,” the report found.
In 2010 Connecticut passed legislation relieving municipalities of moving the possessions to the street, but the town is still responsible for picking it up off the street, transporting it to a facility, and storing it for two weeks.
Glassman told the committee they would love to get out of this business because it consumes time and resources.
“It’s a burden for a lot of small towns, and a lot of big cities,” Glassman said.
One of the governor’s bills seeks to change this by allowing municipalities to charge the landlord for storage if it can’t recoup the money from the sale of the items.
Municipal leaders told lawmakers that there are over 1,200 state mandates imposed on municipalities and reducing some of them will offer property tax relief to residents.