HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 2:30 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy would zero out education funding for 85 communities, reduce education funding for 54 communities, and the state’s 30 neediest communities would receive the same amount of education funding they did last year. That’s if the General Assembly is unable to pass a budget before October.
Malloy, who has been running the state by executive order since July 1, announced changes Friday to his initial June allocation plan.
In addition to the changes the plan makes to the Education Cost Sharing formula, it eliminates the $182 million in PILOT payments that towns expect to receive on Sept. 30 to offset the property tax revenue they’re unable to collect from hospitals, colleges, and state buildings.
“In the absence of an adopted budget from the General Assembly, my administration is reallocating resources to pay for basic human services, education in our most challenged school districts, and the basic operation of government,” Malloy said. “The municipal aid that is funded as part of this executive order reflects the nearly impossible decisions Connecticut must make in the absence of a budget. It will force some of our municipalities — both large and small — to make similarly difficult choices of their own.”
Malloy is also giveing municipalities $40.6 million from the Municipal Revenue Sharing account so that communities can cap their car tax rates at 37 mills.
In total, Malloy’s changes will reduce municipal and education aid by $243 million from his original plan announced at the end of June.
• Click here for a full list of funding for cities and towns.
Joe DeLong, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said local elected officials have been calling him since Malloy’s press conference to announce the plan and expressing “utter frustration and anger” over the devastating impact these cuts would have on their communities.
“They believe what the governor is doing is ridiculous,” DeLong said. However, they also understand the “colossal failure on the part of the General Assembly” to pass a budget, DeLong said. He said their anger is not partisan.
“They just want a solution,” DeLong said.
Betsy Gara, executive director of the Council of Small Towns, said the governor’s plan would be “a guaranteed property tax increase.”
Gara added: “Unfortunately, in many cases, the cuts in municipal aid are so deep that they exceed the amount in a town’s reserve fund, forcing towns to double up on increasing property taxes or cutting services.”
Bob Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said that if the state doesn’t have a budget by the time the kids go back to school, then the kids are the ones who are going to lose.
But what the state decides in the end could be worse than they are seeing at the moment.
“That’s the challenge,” Wallingford Superintendent Sal Menzo said. “That uncertainty.”
He said in Wallingford they do have a budget, but they are trying their hardest to keep the cuts out of the classroom. He said his colleagues in districts that will receive no state funding are concerned about the choices they will have to make.
Wallingford would receive a $19 million reduction in funding under the plan Malloy unveiled Friday.
Menzo said if the governor’s budget becomes reality then he would expect his town officials to come to them and say they need to make adjustments. Layoffs could be part of that.
Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said while they appreciate the governor’s desire to hold the neediest municipalities harmless, the “proposed cuts would have a devastating effect on many school districts across Connecticut.”
He said they’ve been working on a plan to spare school districts from the vast majority of these cuts.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, agreed.
He said they are continuing to work with superintendents, teachers, and school administrators to finalize a budget agreement “as quickly as possible to provide stability to our municipalities and school systems.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, alleged that some of what Malloy is trying to do is “illegal” because there are changes that require legislative approval.
Fasano said legislative approval is required before reducing the excess cost sharing grant for special education and making the unilateral decision to withhold Municipal Revenue Sharing account funds.
Fasano also said Malloy’s education distribution “exacerbates the very same education funding system deemed unconstitutional by the Connecticut Superior Court.”
“What the governor is doing, arbitrarily shifting funding to only a few school districts and stripping core funding that children across our state are relying on, is not what the judge ordered — nor is it in the best interest of our students,” Fasano added.
Malloy said if the General Assembly sends him a budget, then this plan won’t go into effect.
“This is reality,” Malloy said. “Reality is hard for some people.”
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said if Republicans were in charge of the General Assembly they would have adopted a budget by now.
“We share the Governor’s frustration at not having a budget 50 days into the current fiscal year, but unlike the Democrats, Republicans actually proposed numerous budgets,’’ Klarides said.
Democratic legislative leaders said they are working on getting to a budget agreement and expect to release a document next week.
The plan Malloy announced Friday also restores $40 million in funding for the private, nonprofit community.
The Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance thanked the governor for the funds, but warned that the step was temporary.
“While the restored funds will help buffer or delay some of the most devastating impacts of the budget stalemate, it is not a substitute for a biennial budget,” Gian Carl Casa, president & CEO of CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, said. “Nonprofit funding remains $150 million below FY17 levels, putting thousands of programs in jeopardy. Connecticut’s residents are in this together and we all need a budget that fully addresses the state’s budgetary needs including human services and education.”