It looks like taxpayers and town officials can finally see a glimpse of light at the end of the budget tunnel. Once again, Southington officials have shown why the town has earned its reputation as an oasis in the middle of the state’s fiscal desert.
Sure, school officials are licking their wounds after finance board members slashed another $1 million from the BOE budget, but it’s a miracle that town officials were able to find money for a 1.25 percent school increase next year. That’s less than requested but good news as the state capitol continues to punish Southington for being fiscally responsible.
We know that Board of Education officials aren’t happy that they are left with some difficult decisions, but that was what they were elected to do. The fact that there’s still a hole in Southington’s budget that could lead to the loss of teachers is a hard fact to swallow. Nobody wins when cuts are made.
Now comes the time for finger pointing, so here we go. The financial problems that Southington residents are facing doesn’t come from local boards or commissions. It comes from a madman governor that seems hell-bent on punishing Southington residents.
In mid-March, Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration listed Southington as one of six communities facing penalties for cutting too much from school budgets, threatening a $3.2 million penalty for the cuts the town has been forced to make to the 2017-18 budget. As one of the state’s lowest achieving districts, Killingly faced the toughest penalty—$7.9 million—after reducing school spending by almost 10 percent, but Southington was facing the second highest penalty. The governor cited the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR), which is designed to keep towns from slashing school budgets, but Southington’s budget cuts are entirely the fault of Malloy’s personal vendetta against the town.
Southington was forced to empty its savings accounts and still wasn’t able to make up for Malloy’s $5.1 million mid-year cuts. Jobs, including teaching jobs, are now on the chopping block, and Malloy is looking to fine Southington? One of the only good actors in Connecticut’s hemorrhaging economy? We feel that, if fines are to be levied because of the MBR, it is Malloy that should face the penalty since his “holdbacks” are what caused Southington’s budget cuts in the first place.
The $5.1 million in education cuts to Southington last November was almost 10 percent of the governor’s state-wide cuts ($58 million) that spit in the face of a bipartisan budget agreement. It was unfairly put on Southington’s shoulders.
Since then, Malloy has acted like a sort of Santa Claus-Grinch, doling out money to his favorite towns like a resentful 4-year-old. Southington was forced to stop two bridge projects on Marion Avenue because of state cuts from the governor, but just last week Malloy dealt out $27 million in municipal grants for transportation work. Once again, Southington didn’t make the list of the 70 communities to receive aid.
To put it in perspective, Bristol barely felt a twinge during Malloy’s November cuts, and they just received almost $2.5 million during Malloy’s last series of lottery payouts. As finance board members pointed out, Southington can’t rely on state funding, especially when its governor is so vindictive.
That’s why we applaud all the town leaders for tightening belts for the 2018-19 budget while some neighbors aren’t even feeling the pinch. The way it looks now, Southington’s mill rate isn’t going to explode into double digit percentage hikes even though many neighboring towns are going to be forced to raise taxes despite the governor’s handouts.
That’s a not-so-small victory in this difficult year.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.