FAIRFIELD — After months of uncertainty, town officials are breathing a very small sigh of relief with the recent adoption of a state budget, but that doesn’t mean the purse strings will be loosened anytime soon.

“We are approximately back to where we were on July 1,” First Selectman Mike Tetreau said, but added the town is “still recovering” from a prior $4 million cut in state aid, that included over $2.5 million in Education Cost Sharing funds.

And Tetreau said the town is still concerned about possible state aid cuts next month, when the state gets updated revenue numbers for the current year.

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“Last December, we were cut over $500,000,” Tetreau said. “There may be further state cuts later this fiscal year, too.”

The town will continue to keep in place a “strategic” hiring freeze, he said, but “will cautiously be releasing some capital projects.”

“We’re going to continue to tightly manage our expenses and capital projects,” Tetreau said. “We have learned that any revenue from the state is not guaranteed until we have the check in hand.”

Due to the questions surrounding the state budget when the town adopted its spending plan in May, the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance kept $800,000 in contingency to pay for some paving and library expenses that had been cut. The Representative Town Meeting, however, eliminated that money.

Tetreau said the library, which had to cut hours because of the hiring freeze, has begun hiring replacement staff and hours should be restored in early January.

On the education side, Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones said they are grateful the budget wasn’t as devastating as it could have been, “but it is certainly not going to be an easy budget cycle as we prepare for next year.”

She said they are still studying the budget in an effort to understand the many nuances.

“We do know that the Educational Cost Sharing, which flows to the town side of the budget is not zero, but it was only restored just below last year’s already reduced amount of $1,087,165,” Jones said. Two years ago, Fairfield’s ECS funding was $3.5 million.

She said the bipartisan state budget shows ECS funding of $1,032,807 for Fiscal Year 2018, a loss of $2.5 million in one budget cycle.

“I think of it as the equivalent loss of funding to pay 33 or 34 teacher salaries,” Jones said.

In 2019, the funding, however, is set to increase to $1,091,575.

According to Jones, the state budget also calls for the school district to enroll in Medicaid assistance and participate in the Medicaid School Based Child Health program, which allows a school district to seek federal Medicaid reimbursement for many of the Medicaid covered services provided to an eligible student.

“We are examining what this process will mean” to the school system, Jones said, “and we know, at a minimum, we need to hire an outside company to handle the claims, and hire an in-house clerical staff member to handle the district processing.”

Jones said they are hoping the outside company would be paid through collections. What they don’t know, Jones said, is the impact of the budget on residential placement notification, which was included in the governor’s original budget. That, she said, would cost the district about $1 million.

Town funding under state budget

Fiscal Year 2017

Fiscal Year 2018

Fiscal Year 2019

All major state municipal grants

$4.9M

$4.7M

$4.5M

PILOT (colleges/hospitals)

$1.9M

$1.8M

$1.8M

PILOT (state owned)

$137

$137

$19,259

Casino grants

$277,695

$276,419

$114,941

Adult Education grant

$1,758

$1,572

$1,572

Municipal Revenue Sharing

$795,318

$0

$0

Municipal Stabilization grant*

$0

$87,864

$191,245

Local Capital Improvement

$0

$683,932

$435,299

Grants for municipal projects

$96,747

$96,747

$96,747

Town Road Aid

$714,539

$714,539

$714,539

Education Cost Sharing

$1.087M

$1.032M

$1.091M

*denotes a new program