State Budget Cause for Optimism, Concern
The announcement of Governor Dannel Malloy's proposed biennial budget for FY2014-15 this week was the cause for some optimism in Windsor town hall, but also not a little head-scratching. Although the funding the town will receive seems to be at the same levels with last year, the governor proposes changes in a number of the usual revenue streams the town depends on, and in at least one case the proposed change will have significant effects: the elimination of the car property tax will leave Windsor with a five percent
hole in its annual budget.
According to the document Gov. Malloy's administration released on Wednesday, if the budget is approved as is, for the next two years Windsor will receive no PILOT funds, no Mashantucket Pequot & Mohegan grants, no support for school pupils' transportation. Also, the Manufacturing Transition Grant the town receives will be eliminated, a loss of more than one million dollars for the town. Funding
for road and facilities' improvements will be significantly higher And the Education Cost Sharing Grant is projected to be higher by more than $500,000 in 2014, and more than a million in 2015.
On the other hand, the traditional grants the town will receive over the same period will be lower by more than $800,000, a shortage that will be made up by temporary “Hold Harmless Grants” designed to bring the total aid to the same level with FY2013. So what is his impressions of the budget? the Windsor Journal asked Windsor Town Manager Peter Souza, Thursday. “He [the Governor] has proposed some really significant changes, not to the bottom line dollar amount that we may receive, but to the type and sources of funding,” Souza responded. “So in a lot of respects we have to wait and see [what the legislature will do.] In years past you could almost use the governor's budget. You had a pretty good sense of what the general assembly would go with adopting it. This year, there are so many changes ... it's challenging.” The biggest challenge, of course is the proposed elimination of the car tax. “As we've read the proposal, it would potentially be $5.2 million dollars in lost revenue,” Souza calculated.
How would the town close the gap? we wanted to know. “One, we would have to reduce the amount of expenditures,” he said. “Or, everything else being equal, the mill rate would have to increase, so real estate and other personal property would potentially be taxed at a higher rate.” The burden, the town manager believes, would in this case fall on property owners and business owners, and would mean increasing the mill rate from today's 28 mills to about 29.7 mills. While in a sense the proposal is really a reshuffling of the tax base, Souza believes that the change will have too big of an impact across all 169 towns to be adopted without major changes, so before starting to use these numbers for the budget he is already working
on, he wants to see how the debate will develop in the general assembly. Among the matters to be resolved, Souza said, is what kind of strings will be attached to the proposed increase in education funding Windsor will receive. Because Windsor is an Alliance district, if the increase comes in as an Alliance Grant, he noted, there will be rules on how this kinds of funding must be implemented. All in all, however, Souza says that he is not disappointed with the proposed state budget. “I actually was surprised that the state aid as a whole did not get reduced,” he explained. “Definitely they changed the sources of that state aid, but I was expecting a proposal that had reduced state aid. Now, we need to understand what the resources are.