State Budget Negotiations Cause Concern

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State Budget Negotiations Cause Concern

Pei Yi Zhuo, Broadcast Coordinator

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 Towns across Connecticut have been forced to make accommodations in anticipation of the passing of a state budget, as lawmakers in Hartford continue negotiations.

  In Connecticut, revenue for towns consists of state grants in addition to funds raised through taxation. However, amid months of budget deadlock in Hartford, towns are being forced to plan for all eventualities as the fiscal year progresses with no budget in place.

  “We are currently planning for the worst case scenario. And for municipalities like Middlefield, the worst case scenario would be the governor’s budget becoming Connecticut’s operating budget,” Middlefield Board of Finance member and economics teacher Joel Nick said.

 According to Nick, Farmington would also be affected with a possible $5 million loss. Funding deficits may result in program and labor cuts especially in education funding, which makes up the majority of town budgets across Connecticut.

  “Spending freezes, not hiring positions that are open, looking for other funding sources—such as grants—are all common ways to address funding shortfalls,” Business Administrator of Farmington Public Schools Vincent Lafontan said.

 According to the Hartford Courant, in April, Farmington citizens voted on and passed a $102.74 million town budget including $64.17 million in education funding for the 2017-18 school year. The budget was developed around expected cuts in state aid; however, if state grant money falls below the level anticipated in the budget, the school district will be forced to address the deficit. Farmington public schools has already halted “nonessential” spending in preparation for such an event.

  “A loss of this state funding would have serious consequences to the town and Farmington Public Schools,” Lafontan said.

  According to Superintendent Kathleen Greider, Farmington Public Schools administrators are following the negotiations closely and will be ready to respond to new developments.

  “If we receive significantly larger than anticipated reductions in grant funding, we would work in collaboration with the Board of Education and Town Council with a focus on ongoing communication with faculty, staff, parents, and students,” Greider said.

  Across the state, the lack of funding could force layoffs in school districts that are dependent on state aid and may result in municipal tax increases. However, if towns are provided the funds they had anticipated, the legislature would need to make cuts elsewhere. The Republican budget, which recently passed the House and senate only to be vetoed by Governor Malloy, fully funds towns, but takes $300 million from the University of Connecticut.

  “They’re in the same boat. They’re in the middle of their operations. To cut now would be harmful to them,” Nick said.

  Next year, Nick hopes there might be better planning on the part of legislators which would allow towns to anticipate and better accommodate budget cuts.

  “If we had some time to work on $5 million in Farmington or $3 million in my district RSD13 [Regional School District 13], we could make better decisions about the budget before we’re in the middle of it, which we’re at now,” Nick said.

  In addition to the Republican plan and the governor’s proposal, a compromise budget between the legislative and executive branches is also possible. Such a plan would cut town funding, but may be more lenient than Malloy’s current proposition.

  “I think the state government has serious budget issues in need of resolution . . . They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” political action club president Dylan Suffredini said.