EXCLUSIVE: Small Towns Leader: If Malloy’s Cuts Go Through “Most” Will Have to Raise Property TaxesAugust 25, 2017
The executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns tells Reclaim Connecticut that deep cuts to municipal aid are actually "a big tax increase."
“Any deep cuts in municipal aid are in fact a big tax increase.”
That was the takeaway Betsy Gara, the executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns (COST), wanted readers to understand.
Gara’s comments came after Gov. Dan Malloy (D-Conn.) released a study on Thursday on Connecticut’s aid to towns and cities. In a press release touting the study, Malloy said he can no longer hold towns “harmless.”
“As a former mayor, former member of local boards of finance and education, and as a father who raised three children here, I know just how important state funding is for every city and town in Connecticut,” Governor Malloy said. “That’s why my administration has been highly protective of municipal aid over the past six years, as this report makes clear. Unfortunately, holding towns harmless and even increasing aid while we make excruciating cuts across state government is not sustainable in the long-term. It’s clear that if we want to put Connecticut’s budget on stable footing, we must modernize the relationship between the state and local municipalities.”
Gara took some issues with Malloy’s study, including the issue of teachers’ pensions.
“It is troubling that the municipal aid report adds in teachers’ pensions cost as a category of municipal aid,” Gara said. “Because it isn’t.”
She explained that teachers’ pensions have been “state-run” and “state-managed,” and that the system is struggling now “due to over 70 years of chronic underfunding.”
Now, Malloy wants to shift a third of those teachers’ pensions costs onto small towns and cities, which Gara says is akin to the state solving its long-term obligations on the “backs of property taxpayers.”
Reclaim Connecticut asked Gara, point blank, if Malloy’s cuts to local aid will force small towns to raise property taxes.
Gara’s answer, in short? Yes.
“Most small towns would have to end up raising property taxes,” she said.
And, she added, it is already happening. “Anticipating some rejection of municipal aid, it look as though the vast majority of towns have increased their mill rate.”
“Connecticut’s taxpayers have already been very burdened with property tax levels,” Gara said. These cuts are going to make a “bad situation” much “worse.”
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