State budget spares towns from teacher pension costs
FAIRFIELD — Towns and cities across the state narrowly missed a bullet when the General Assembly approved a two-year budget that does not pass down teacher pension costs to them.
Both chambers of the General Assembly approved a budget that would pay the underfunded Teachers’ Retirement Fund with the state’s surplus and payments that would essentially extend pension payments to 2049.
In mid-May, First Selectman Mike Tetreau had warned about possible service cuts and higher property taxes in town if the budget had asked towns to shoulder the pension costs.
“This is not good news,” Tetreau wrote. “The pension cost transfer will put pressure on our Education budget and take money away from our students.”
The town budget for Fiscal Year 2020, amounted to $316.4 million and was approved by all town bodies a month ago. The budget did not account for what could have been a nearly million-dollar responsibility.
According to Tetreau, Fairfield would have had to pay $700,000 in the first year, followed by $1.4 million and $2.1 million in the upcoming fiscal years. The town would also have needed to pay a penalty fee as the district pays their teachers more than the state average.
The budget now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk, who is expected to sign it in the coming days.
“I feel very good about that,” Tetreau said in reference to the budget. “I’m very grateful to the General Assembly and government for not passing those costs to the town and assuming their responsibility to solve our pension crisis.”
Superintendent Toni Jones was also elated about the recently approved state budget.
“I am very happy that the Connecticut Teacher Pension was not approved as presented earlier in this session by passing the costs on to the localities,” Jones said.
The approved budget aims to restructure payments to the fund, something that includes nearly $381 million in a special reserve fund provided by the Connecticut Lottery Corp.
“Thank goodness enough people spoke out about the inequitable plan that was put forth and the impact to school districts and towns across Connecticut. We are grateful that our representatives listened and advocated on behalf of our school district,” Jones said.