The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities held a news conference Wednesday to call on lawmakers to sit down and negotiate a budget that doesn't push the state's financial problems on to cities and towns. They also talked about the impact that not having a budget has on local communities.
Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra says the landscape created by state government inaction is bleak for the town, adding that Newtown is caught in an ever-tightening vice, over which the town has no control and no ready response. She says circumstances can only improved by reasonable, thoughtful, incremental and strategic action by the legislature, with the tax payer clearly in mind.
For the past 8 years, Llodra says Newtown has addressed structural changes in financial practices. She notes that they have consolidated, collaborated, contained costs to manage debt and slash overhead. In addition, they negotiated with unions and made short and long term plans.
Come the 4th quarter of this fiscal year, Newtown will be out of cash and will have to raid the fund balance or issue additional taxation in order to pay the bills. She says either or both end up on the backs of property owners. If the Fund Balance is raided, a decline in the bond rating will follow. That will increase the cost for borrowing, adding more debt, and halting the town's ability to perform necessary capital improvements . Llodra says the tax burden will have to be raised to an unsustainable level or severely reduce services and programs, compromising the very attributes residents pay taxes for.
Llodra says Newtown officials did what they had to do in the name of stability and financial prudence. She added that Newtown today is financially stronger and more stable because of the years of committment.
There's an added challenge of confronting and responding to changing demographics.
Llodra cautioned Governor Malloy and state lawmakers that raiding the fund balance would erode the cushion needed to protect Newtown from ongoing budget pressures, possible disasters or emergencies. She added that it's a one-time action that only positions towns for greater harm the next fiscal year.
Many CCM members called on lawmakers to not add to the financial stress of towns with more unfunded mandates. Llodra says this is the time they should be lessening existing mandates and reconsider what is the right role of government.