NEWINGTON - Town leaders are just beginning to grapple with a $3.4 million cut in state funding, one of the largest in the governor’s recent municipal aid package.
After signing the General Assembly’s $41 billion, two-year spending plan, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced he would be holding back $91 million in state aid to towns. Of the 160 Connecticut cities and towns facing a drop from last year’s grant allotment, Newington has the fifth-highest cut.
“The staff, town manager and finance director are working on a plan that should enable us to squeak by the end of the fiscal year, hopefully without any furloughs or reductions in force,” Mayor Roy Zartarian said recently. “We’re looking at freezing expenditures, particularly in the area of capital improvements.”
The governor’s announcement came as a new Town Council and Board of Education took their seats and the $28 million plan to rebuild Newington Town Hall was approved by voters. The state’s cut will not impact this project, according to the mayor.
“The Town Hall plan will still be proceeding because we’ll be going into borrowing for that,” he explained.
His concern, however, is how Moody’s Investor Service will adjust the town’s credit rating once it enters the bond market.
“Several dozen towns have received lower ratings because of the state’s budget situation,” Zartarian pointed out.
The council plans to address the issue more this month.
“It’s still really premature at this point what were going to do,” Majority Leader Carol Anest said. “Right now the town is still in the discussion stages.”
The town received notification from the Secretary of the State’s Office that it would be receiving the first funding allotment at the end of November, with more to come in January.
Funding to Bridgeport was slashed $6.3 million, more than any other municipality. Nearby, Wethersfield is dealing with its own $1.4 million cut.
Berlin’s cut came in at just under $1 million.
Only nine towns were slated to receive more money in 2018 than in 2017.
In his letter to the secretary of the state and the legislative branch, Malloy outlined his reasons for signing the budget into law after a 120-day impasse.
“I recognize that many of the spending cuts contained in this budget are difficult for legislators, and for me,” he wrote. “I commend members of the General Assembly on both sides of the aisle for finding common ground on these difficult decisions. I asked that they deliver a budget that is fair, balanced and free of gimmicks. This budget, taken as a whole, addresses those concerns.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.