Towns, Cities Dealing With Budget Crisis

Towns and cities are all struggling to make ends meet this budget season, and some are having more luck than others.

In some cases, unions and municipalities are working well together to save money. A cafeteria workers’ union in New Haven has agreed to allowing subcontracting of work at Head Start centers to a private contractor, which should save the city money next year.

The teachers’ union in Danbury, like many other unions in that city, has overwhelmingly voted for a contract revision that will save that city $1.2 million over the next few years.

However, the Farmington teachers’ union hasn’t granted concessions, and that town is threatening to eliminate up to twenty teaching positions next year.

Other towns are looking for ways to keep tax increases at or near zero. East Hartford is looking to cut about $2 million from the education budget.

In Enfield the council has been examining several ways to keep taxes from going up, including possibly ignoring unfunded mandates where it makes sense to. Another option much talked about in town is the possibility of closing one of the elementary schools.

How is your town managing the crisis?

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6 responses to “Towns, Cities Dealing With Budget Crisis

  1. In Ridgefield, there’s been some talk of restructuring the elementary schools. Right now, there are five or six elementary schools (two of which are right next door to each other, very odd). Anyway, instead of having all the schools be grade K – 5 , some people want half the schools to be K-2 and the half to be for grades 3-5.

    Why does this matter? I think there’s some rule that there can be no more than 18 children per class. So if school A has 40 students in grade 1, and school B has 40 students, they’d each need to have three sections, because 20 students per class would be unacceptable. But by combining the schools by grade, you’d now have 80 first graders in one school. So you’d only need five sections, not the six sections at the two schools. Obviously, if the two schools each had 18 students, or each had 17 students, there’d be no savings. So it’s not a gurantee: it depends on how many students there are.

    Since my kids are not yet of school age, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the particulars, so some the numbers above are illustrative (it could be 16 students per section or 20, I don’t remember). But the point is that by combining schools by grade, you’d cut down on expenses. I’m not sure if school bus schedules would have one route for K-2 and another for 3-5, or if they’d just stop at both schools in tandem.

    Some parents are really upset by this, but I’m not exactly sure why. I think it’s that sibling pairs that are in the same school now wouldn’t be, or that their children would have longer bus rides (but there’s only one high school in the whole town, so even if there’s only three elementary schools per grade, the trip is likely to be shorter than what high schoolers have to endure).

  2. wtfdnucsailor

    In Waterford, the Board of Finance is half way through its budget review. So far, the cuts have been small but the big, vulnerable budgets haven’t yet been presented. The BOF has a goal of a zero increase in the mill rate thus no tax increase. This may be difficult to obtain. The Finance Director informed the BOF at a meeting last night that over $2 million would have to be cut from the budgets not yet heard to make this possible. The loss of interest on the Town’s Fund balance and the decrease in outside revenues of over $1 million means that to get a zero mill rate, the budget will have to decrease or a large amount of the unreserved fund balance will be required to offset the budget increase. The Town Treasurer, Bernie Pisacich, recommended that the BOF ask for a freeze on all town wages at the FY2008 level to keep taxes down. That may be a hard give back to get from the town’s unions.

  3. One thing for sure is that not one school district will lay off any “Administrator” positions. It will always be the teachers let go first. Restructuring schools has more to do about instituting state run daycare or pre-shool programs, there by getting a hold on more taxpayer money for pension funds etc…

  4. In New Britain, the word is that, thanks to “sound fiscal management”– the mayor’s words repeated by the Herald– and work that’s been done with private partners to grow the grand list, there may be room to for creative measures to prevent the need for a tax increase. That is the challenge that was laid out in Wednesday’s speech.

    It’s hard to imagine, with pending cuts in PILOT payments and flat lined ECS rates that the money received from the stimulus will be enough to make up the difference for any municipality. I’d never say never, but with Common Council the mayor has to work with, it’s hard to imagine where they will find the consolidation.

    That being said, if they can actually find retailers to move into the downtown locations they are refurbishing and/or rebuilding as part of the downtown development project, revenue projections could be considerably rosier than other cities in the state.

  5. That being said, if they can actually find retailers to move into the downtown locations

    Consider the alternatives like Hartford, or New Haven.

    New Britain looks better every day.

    The mayor will take a business’s call, show up, address a problem, and in Stewart’s’ case, move heaven & earth to help any local business resolve pretty much any issue they might have whether it has anything to do with government or not.

    I know of too many cases where Stewart has gone to the mat to help people before you could even blink.

    Met a nicer more engaging fellow than Tim Stewart have you?
    Seriously – ever in your whole life?
    The guy’s terrific, and an exceptionally kind and decent individual.

    Did you ever notice that Republican Mayors never show up in the news wringing their hands and whining about how “bad” their city’s are?

    Nope – quite the contrary; and by the way let’s take a look at New Britain, Newington, Torrington, Wallingford and Danbury while we’re at it.

    Torrington’s boy-wonder mayor is well known for showing up everywhere, taking a cue perhaps from both much smaller Prospect’s long time mayor, Chatfield and New Britain’s Stewart.

    Bingham’s likable as all get out too, and both a modest and humble young man with perfect manners. (You might recall that it was Bristol mayor Mike Warner’s good manners that got them ESPN – no tax deal, no give away, just a nice young mayor with really good manners. Bristol remains indebted to Mike Warner’s parents for that.)

    It’s tough to attract new tax base to a city or town when the mayor spends all his time scaring the daylights out of everyone with tales of impending gloom, doom and disaster.

    Republicans don’t do that – it’s bad for business and it’s bad manners.

  6. So far no bombshells. It’s still in the works, I expect everything to peacefully come out around a 0% or 1% increase.

    My town has long term fiscal tight reigns. Rough numbers without looking them up…

    We have 55% of the average per capita property tax of Connecticut;
    We have 62% of the average per capita grand list of Connecticut;
    We have 90% of the average per capita income of Connecticut.

    While people will gripe about tax increases under any circumstances…we demonstrably have quite a bit of breathing room before people are truly up against a wall compared to other communities. Less of your income goes towards housing and property taxes in most other towns. (On the other side of the ledger, most people will pay more in transportation costs — but at least whether you chose an Accord or an Expedition is your choice).

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