State budget OK’d, town figures out where to next

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

The State Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan budget on Oct. 26. Connecticut has been without a budget since early July and was the only state in the country without one.

The town of Plainville is subject to a state aid reduction of about $1 million under the most recent budget.

“That’s a significant reduction from the money that we had expected to receive,” said Town Manager Robert Lee.

Lee said Plainville generally gets about $11 million from the state. The $1 million loss is nearly 10 percent less than what the town had budgeted for the current fiscal year.

“This budget is better than the budget proposed under the governor’s executive order,” said State Rep. Dr. William Petit, Jr. (R-22). “With that budget, Plainville would have seen a loss of around $12 (million) or $13 million in all, versus this budget, where Plainville faces a $1 million loss this year and around $600,000 next year.”

Petit said that Plainville is “fiscally well-managed” and will be able to cover the $600,000 shortfall in FY19.

“The state has spent years spending more than it had available. We will have to play a little bit of catch up,” said Petit. “There is little appetite for an increase of taxes but this budget is a compromise across four government bodies [Republican and Democratic Senate and House of Representatives].”

Town councilor Kathy Pugliese agreed that this budget is better than the governor’s executive order, “but we still face a problem,” she said.

“We will see reductions and cuts. How they are addressed will be up to the Town Council,” said Pugliese. “There are a number of options to look at, but it is a substantial deficit to the town and it is not an easy solution.”

Lee is keeping his chin up for what is ahead of Plainville. He reported that at the end of last fiscal year, Plainville had close to $1 million more in revenue than initially predicted. In addition, he explained that Plainville receives tax bills and back taxes from people who owe the town money.

“I certainly anticipate that we will collect more than predicted from other accounts, which will make up for some of the shortfall of the state budget,” said Lee. “We have sufficient reserve funds to be able to handle this loss.”

The state budget is a biennial (two-year) budget. For FY18, Plainville will see an increase in revenue from the state of about $425,000. Since they will be getting that increase in revenue this year, state aid next year will be reduced $600,000 for FY19.

“Regarding that $600,000, we’re going to have to figure out how that will be handled in next FY’s budget,” said Lee.

There is some good news for Plainville. The legislature has changed the wage rates for projects up to $1 million. Lee explained that if a project costs under $1 million, the town may not be required to pay the wage rate to the state, a cost inflation that sometimes can make-or-break the entire project.

“For example,” said Lee, “We plan on building some bathroom facilities and a concession stand at Norton Park as part of a grant that we have. The project is just under $1 million so we may not have to pay a wage rate there.”

In addition, though not pertinent at this time, some of the binding arbitration rules have been amended. In the past, if Plainville went into binding arbitration, the arbitrator would be able to take into account how much the town has saved in its reserve fund.

“Now the arbitrators cannot take into account up to 15 perfect of a reserve fund,” said Lee. “We are around 15 percent.” He said Plainville hasn’t gone to arbitration for many years, but “this could benefit us at some point down the road.”

The budget passed the Senate by a vote of 33-3 on Oct. 25 and passed the House by 126-23 on Oct. 26.