NEWINGTON - The town is set to receive a $2.1 million increase in state aid this year, according to local legislators.
The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 543 at the end of May, making revisions to its biennial 2018-19 budget that slashed funding to towns late last year.
State Reps. Gary Byron, Tony Guerrera and Rick Lopes came to the last meeting of the Newington Town Council to address elected officials after the session ended.
“We did pass a bipartisan budget on the last day of session,” Guerrera said. “Newington overall did pretty good.”
Most of the increase is composed of Education Cost Sharing funds, according to Byron.
“We went back to help the municipalities that got hit, and put some money back in,” he explained.
This was one of many funding cuts restored in the agreement, which also brought back the Medicare Savings Program at a cost of $130 million. This means that elderly adults currently receiving MSP benefits will continue to receive them going forward. That includes Medicare Part B premiums and Part D prescription costs.
“That’s huge,” said Byron, a member of the state’s aging committee.
“It was significantly important to me that we save that program,” he added. “It’s key for Newington residents.”
The state did not pass a budget until October last year, following an especially contentious season and a 120-day impasse. A few weeks later, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced he would be making additional cuts to ECS funding in 139 of the state’s 169 cities and towns.
This year’s recent revisions were intended to make up for some of the cuts, but are by no means a guarantee for the future. They are the result of this year’s one-time, $1 billion-plus surplus from income tax receipts.
Tax refunds due in 2019 will likely contribute to a $4.5 billion forecasted deficit for the next biennial budget.
“There’s good and bad every year up there,” Lopes pointed out. “We really are going to have to be fiscally diligent the next few years.”
Councilors brought up concerns about changes made to Section 8-30 G, applying to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s affordable housing regulations.
The act mainly affects municipalities in which less than 10 percent of housing is for publicly assisted, low- to moderate-income residents, the legislators told them.
The level of affordable housing in Newington is at about 8 percent, though federally funded veterans communities recently built around the Newington Veterans Hospital are exempt from this calculation.
“Those should be included in the percentage,” Councilor Gail Budrejko pointed out. “Newington is doing a good job in serving underprivileged and underserved populations.”
Over the last few years town officials and residents have fought so-called “high-density housing” spurred by state-initiated, transit-oriented development proposed near the town’s two CTfastrak stations.
Councilors asked the legislators to bring any concerns to their table in the future, such as when bills come up like this.
“If there’s something that could affect us, can you notify us?” Carol Anest asked. “It would help us in the future to know what’s going on.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.