City gets glimpse at state budget plan

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) held a conference on Tuesday, Feb. 14 that many mayors, town managers, first selectmen, and financial personnel attended. Among the attendants were Mayor Ken Cockayne and city Comptroller Glenn Klocko, who reported the information to the Board of Finance and City Councilors at Tuesday’s joint board meeting.

“I’ll be presenting this in more detail at the Board of Finance level, but I think it’s kind of helpful that you get updated periodically about what’s taking place so it’s not a shock to you at the end of the process,” Klocko said to the joint board.

Ben Barnes, Office of Policy and Management Secretary, was the featured speaker at the CCM event. He serves as Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget director and assists in preparing and promoting the budget.

Governor Malloy’s budget proposal calls for a new Education Cost Sharing grant formula, which will directly affect Bristol. Klocko said the city will lose about $6.9 million in the ECS grant, but the state is showing a $13 million grant in place of that. “There was a lot of conversation about Special Education costs,” said Klocko. “We’re losing $6.9 million on the ECS, however, they’re changing the formula and the status.”

During the governor’s budget address on Feb. 8, he said that the new formula “uses a more accurate measure of wealth by using the equalized net grant list as well as a better measure of student poverty, allowing the state to direct support to communities with higher concentrations of poverty.” The new budget proposes that Special Education would be a separate formula grant from ECS, where the funding is increased by $10 million.

Other budgetary changes will result from Malloy’s proposals. Like last year, there will be a motor vehicle cap, but it’s going down from 37 to 32 mills. Klocko said, “We are supposed to be reimbursed for the difference of a couple million dollars, of course, you never know if that’s really going to happen in its entirety so it’s a little bit scary.”

Malloy also suggested that municipalities can tax real estate property where hospitals sit, and the state put a number in of approximately $2 million. The comptroller said that this will surely bring the lobby groups out in full force.

Required contribution for pensions will put a dent in both the Board of Education and city budgets. About $1.4 million dollars from both sectors is required to pay the additional contributions, totaling $2.8 million that Bristol owes.

“The state budget session ends June 4, and Barnes was quick to say, ‘unless it’s extended,’” said Klocko. Of the 169 communities in Connecticut, 133 were told that they are losing money, and the primary ones gaining are big cities.