Milford mayor ready to battle state budget plan

Municipal leaders across the state are rallying to fight the governor’s state budget proposal. And Milford, faced with a whopping $11.1 million cut, is no different.

“We’re going to lay down on a train tack to keep this from happening,” Mayor Ben Blake said this week.

The governor’s budget plan, which proposes major reductions in state aid to many municipalities, would have a devastating affect on Milford, according to Blake, who described the budget plan as “draconian” and “untenable.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed 2017-18 budget is cutting municipal aid from 145 towns across the state.

Many municipalities already felt the slice of a mid-year state grant reduction: In Milford the state already cut the Education Cost Sharing grant (ECS) this year from $11.2 million to $10.8 million.

The governor’s proposed budget for next year, 2017-2018, cuts the entire remaining $10.8 million in ECS funds, leaving Milford zero ECS dollars.

In addition, the state budget plan leaves Milford with a Pequot Grant cut of $3,617, and a  PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for colleges and hospitals cut of $419,820, according to City FInance Director Peter Erodici.

“The state is also proposing to have cities and towns share in the annual contributions that need to be made to the Teachers’ Retirement System,” Erodici said. “Milford’s share would be approximately $5,581,054. This would be a major new expenditure in our budget which also has the same effect as a cut in revenue.”

Adding in those teacher retirement contributions, the total “cuts” affecting Milford’s general fund amount to $16,853,592.

“However, the state increased some other grants and proposes to allow a hospital property tax, so the net loss, after those adjustments, amounts to about $11.1 million,” Erodici said.

Some communities will receive increased funding if the budget is approved. Malloy designated $38.1 million in state aid for Hartford, $40.8 million for Waterbury, $24.2 million for New Britain, $14.2 million for Bridgeport, and $13.1 million for New Haven.

The state has a two-year — or biennial — budget, and on Feb. 8 Malloy put forward a $40.6-billion budget proposal for 2017-18 and 2018-19.

The $18-billion budget for next year, 2017-18, proposes about $1.4 billion in spending cuts, along with about $320 million in new revenues, to help close a $1.7-billion budget gap.

Among the cuts in the governor’s plan is $700 million in yet-to-be negotiated concessions from 15 unions — backed by the threat of laying off some 4,200 state employees, about a 10th of the state workforce, if a package of concessions can’t be reached. The planned labor savings would rise to $860 million in the second year of the biennial budget.

The revenue increase in the governor’s budget plan also includes proposals to raise tobacco taxes, start taxing hospitals’ real estate, and eliminate taxpayers’ ability to claim a tax credit for local property taxes when they pay state income taxes.

Mayor Blake sees the governor’s budget plan as rewarding municipalities that have not been fiscally responsible and punishing those that have been prudent in managing their finances.

He believes the final state budget plan will be much different than what is on the table now, and said he will fight to see the plan changed. The state plan as it stands now “would be a huge monstrous hit to Milford,” he said, adding that he’s been on the phone constantly with state officials, including Milford’s representatives in Hartford.

Representatives at the local level expressed their dismay with Malloy’s proposed budget.

State Rep. Kim Rose (D-118) said she will by next to the mayor on the train track to stop the budget proposal from going through. But she added that there is little chance it will get through the budget process as presented.

“Slim to none,” Rose said about the budget plans chance for approval.

Rose said she was shocked at the proposed cuts and does not support the plan. She was especially bothered by how Milford would fare compared to other municipalities under the proposal.

State Reps. Pam Staneski (R-119) and Charles Ferraro (R-117) expressed strong disappointment with Governor Malloy’s state budget plan, especially the proposal to shift the state’s share of education grants and teacher pension costs to the taxpayers of Milford.

Staneski said, “Unfortunately, our call for responsible budgeting has been dismissed by both the governor and the Democratic majority for the last few years; instead they have continued to ignore the true economic realities of our state.

“Make absolutely no mistake,” Staneski added, “the governor’s budget is going to be a massive tax hike on Milford taxpayers and this is shameful."

Ferraro said the governor’s budget proposal fails to solve the state’s fiscal problems.
“His latest budget proposal represents a change from ‘kick the can down the road budgeting’ to a ‘pass the buck’ style of budgeting,” Ferraro said. “Simply passing the state’s budgetary responsibilities on to towns and middle class families will not kick start the economy. I will be working hard every day this session with my colleagues in the House and Senate to come up bold solutions and real long-term reforms that will create jobs and grow our economy.”