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Connecticut Suburbs, Rural Towns Relieved Democrats' Budget Is Going Through

DON STACOM

September 02, 2009

HARTFORD - Ready to settle for relatively small financial losses, leaders of most suburbs and rural towns were happy to learn Gov. M. Jodi Rell will let stand Democrats' proposed state budget, municipal lobbyists said.

Communities across the state had braced for potentially deep cuts in aid, but it appears that Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport will bear most of the burden, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said Tuesday.

"With the exception of the big cities, the towns could have been hit a lot harder," said Bart Russell, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns. Getting a budget locked in now even if it means some aid reductions is vital, according to several mayors and town leaders. During the protracted budget fight, Rell doled out money to towns one month at a time, and usually at rates well below what they'd expected. That has frustrated many communities, and created costs for some that had to borrow to pay week-to-week expenses. Even reasonably affluent towns were concerned about more delays.

"We'd like to see some resolution. We have $3 million [in state PILOT grants] due in September if that doesn't get paid by late October, we'll have to start cashing out some investments to raise money," Farmington Budget Director Joseph Swetcky said. "And that means a lot less investment income."

CCM estimates that the new budget will give Granby about $30,000 less in state aid than it got last year. But Granby, like many communities, would rather have a budget in place than try to lobby Rell or the Democratic-controlled General Assembly for more money.

"Waiting and trying to get more money later is probably not wise," Granby Town Manager William Smith Jr. said. "The chances of getting more wouldn't be good."

CCM estimates that the Democrats' budget reduces overall municipal aid by about $44 million from last year. Nearly $10 million of that will be absorbed by Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport alone.

"It hits Bridgeport, one of the three poorest cities in the state, for about $4.5 million," said Jim Finley, executive director of CCM, a lobbying group for towns and cities.

Bristol Comptroller Glenn Klocko said his city is eager for the certainty of an approved state budget.

"Many people are disappointed it took this long," said Klocko. "It should have been done two months ago. I'm disappointed in the legislature and the governor's office."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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