Hoping to avoid cuts in municipal aid that could lead to an increase in local property taxes during the 2017 legislative session, Connecticut’s largest municipal lobby is working to develop its own package of legislative initiatives.
Over the next four months, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities will convene two subcommittees to tackle two big policy topics. The first is the property tax and local revenue diversification, and the second is regional service delivery. The two subcommittees have been charged with developing statewide policies that govern the delivery and financing of municipal services, according to a press release.
The work will build off the 2015 report of the State Tax Panel. One of the recommendations from that report was collection and redistribution of part of the state sales tax to municipalities. However, in order to balance the 2017 fiscal year budget lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used about $50 million of the sales tax revenue that was supposed to go to municipalities.
With the state facing another $1.4 billion deficit over the next two years, there’s an increased likelihood municipalities will feel some of that pain.
The CCM panel’s work will be guided by Lawrence Walters, an emeritus professor of Public Management and Policy at Brigham Young University. Walters was retained by the 2015 General Assembly as the principal investigator for a study on business property taxes and motor vehicle taxes in Connecticut.
In addition to Walter’s expertise, the CCM panel will also be drawing heavily upon resources from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, leading economists, and other experts on these issues across the country, according to the press release.
The panel will be spearheaded by Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
“We are seeking to develop a legislative action plan that can be implemented by the 2017 General Assembly and designed to change the course of events in Connecticut towns and cities starting in July 2017 in terms of municipal funding and local service efficiencies,” Boughton said.
But the 120-day time period is admittedly ambitious.
“We are not looking for another study that will be filed on an office shelf,” Joe DeLong, executive director of CCM, said.
In addition to Boughton, the panel will include Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser, North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, Mansfield Town Manager Matt Hart, Norwich Mayor Deb Hinchey, East Hartford Mayor Marcia LeClerc, Stamford Mayor David Martin, Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul, and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.
The report was welcomed by outgoing House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden.
Sharkey said he founded the Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies (M.O.R.E) Commission eight years ago because he understand that the property tax is the most regressive, burdensome tax Connecticut families face.
“Today, this work is all the more important because the state cannot afford to finance inefficiency at the local level,” Sharkey said. “I look forward to CCM’s new panel working together with the M.O.R.E. Commission to propose policies for 2017 that will constrain spending and provide relief to municipal taxpayers.”