HARTFORD, CT — Acknowledging they won’t have the state budget resolved by June 7, the House took the first step Saturday to help municipalities deal with the uncertainty about how much state aid they will receive when a budget is finally adopted.
The bill passed 149-0 by the House after three-minutes of debate would allow municipalities to adjust their budgets to reflect changes in state aid. The impact will vary based on adjustments municipalities choose to make to their mill rates, and their expenditures.
Most, if not all, municipal budgets will be set before the state finalizes its budget and with the radical proposals to change municipal aid formulas, municipalities have been struggling with what numbers they should use.
Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said if a municipality has adopted a budget to increase its mill rate this coming year to account for the shift in teacher pension payments then they can go back and decrease that mill rate if they end up adopting a budget that doesn’t include that provision.
Back in March, the Senate failed after a 90-minute debate to extend the budget deadlines for municipalities. Democrats who proposed the legislation said it was the right thing to do in a year when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget causes drops, some seismic, in aid to 138 of the 169 towns.
Republicans accused Democrats of poorly drafting the legislation and Democrats accused Republicans of a filibuster.
Between March and now the budget situation has gotten worse.
There’s now a $5.1 billion deficit over the next two years. In fiscal year 2018 alone lawmakers will need to resolve a $2.2 billion budget deficit.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have objected to Malloy’s proposal to shift $400 million of the cost of the teacher’s retirement fund for 2018 to cities and towns. They’ve also objected to his proposal to allow municipalities to collect property taxes on hospital property in exchange for a higher reimbursement from the state to those hospitals to make up the difference.
There are now four budget proposals and each changes to some degree the amount of money cities and towns receive. Municipalities, which are required to send out tax bills based on their local charters, have been asking the state for greater flexibility and certainty.
The Senate was not in on Saturday.
The Senate will have until midnight June 7 to approve the House bill.