Fairfield budget gap up to $4.5M if state cuts stand
The governor’s revised budget proposal to cut more than $900 million in state spending zeroes out all Educational Cost Sharing funds received by Fairfield, as well as many other wealthy municipalities in Fairfield County. It also cuts $1 million in sales tax sharing, Tetreau said.
“The only thing we can do is significantly reduce services,” the first selectman said, should the ECS and sales tax funding not be restored prior to final adoption of a 2016-17 budget by the state’s General Assembly.
The town’s $293.5 million spending package for the new fiscal year has already been voted on by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance, and awaits a May 2 vote by the Representative Town Meeting. As it stands, that would be a 0.79 percent increase over the current budget.
At Tetreau’s request, the RTM will discuss the budget situation at its meeting Monday.
The following item has been added to the kegislative body’s agenda: "To hear and consider budget reduction recommendations from the First Selectman and the Chairman of the Board of Education in order to address the potential State of Connecticut reduction and/or elimination of the Education Cost Sharing Grant for the Town of Fairfield in the amount of $3,583,484."
RTM Moderator Pam Iacono, who has asked the town to look into the implications of delaying the RTM budget vote, has asked Board of Education Chairman Phil Dwyer to attend Monday’s meeting and be ready with recommendations.
Tetreau said that under the budget-approval process set by the town charter, the selectman and finance boards no longer have the authority to make changes to the spending proposal. The charter spells out the dates by which both boards must act on a budget for a new fiscal year.
“We were struggling just last week at the RTM meetings when it looked like we could lose $1.2 million,” Tetreau said, referring to the initial indication of lost revenue as the state grapples to fill a budget deficit. Had the magnitude of the lost revenue been known sooner, he said, the selectman and finance panels might have been able to make adjustments.
The first selectman acknowledged the governor’s proposal could change, but the state won’t adopt a final budget until after the town is required to vote, under the charter’s rules, on its spending plan for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.
The Board of Finance could increase the mill rate more than originally anticipated to make up for the loss of projected revenue, if the state settles on a spending plan before the local tax rate is finally set.
“If we don’t know by that point, most of this will have to come out of the town side,” Tetreau said of potential spending cuts. “We can’t go back and adjust the Board of Education budget at that point.”
“It’s the towns that took the brunt” of cuts under the revised state spending plan, Tetreau said. “This is really devastating, all of our flexibility is gone.”
“It would very disappointing for this to happen given all this town provides to the state,” Board of Finance Chairman Thomas Flynn said. “This recommendation is just one more way the governor and his legislative leadership has let down the town of Fairfield, specifically, as well as the entire state of Connecticut.”