By JEN CARDINES
Over 60 towns and cities across Connecticut responded to a survey from the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities regarding constraints imposed on local governments when the fiscal year began without a state budget.
The organization of towns implemented the study to determine how town governments are suffering from the state’s budget crisis.
The study shows that Southington’s plan for dealing with the crisis is in line with neighboring communities, but other towns are harder hit by the problems in Hartford.
Town governments across the state have begun postponing planned road work, implementing hiring freezes or slowing down the hiring process when feasible. In addition, communities are holding off spending for public works equipment, eliminating youth summer programs, and cutting back on environmental testing.
Town Manager Garry Brumback is Southington’s representative at CCM. He said that Southington has been proactive in dealing with the state crisis, and our efforts are in line with the study.
“I told [CCM] that we are slowing down both hiring and new projects awaiting a state budget,” he said. “With the support of the Board of Finance and the Council, we are moving forward albeit cautiously.”
Even though neighboring towns have halted many capital projects, construction crews are still working around Southington, and recreation department events have gone on as scheduled.
The town continues to move forward despite state-wide concerns, but while Southington officials prepared for difficult times, no town will go unscathed once a budget is passed.
All together, Southington’s 2017-18 budget totals $143,396,270, which includes the town’s operating budget, Board of Education budget, the sewer fund, and the Animal Control budget.
Like many other communities, the mill rate was increased to accommodate the expenses Southington faces. The Board of Finance set the mill at 30.48, which is a 0.84 mill increase over last year’s 29.64. This was a 2.83 percent increase, and the first time that Southington’s mill rate surpassed 30 mills.
However, according to the CCM report, mill rate percent increases (from towns that responded to the survey) ranged from 0.8 percent to 9.39 percent. The average mill rate increase is 2.86 percent, so Southington fell right within the state average. Meanwhile, many other towns are struggling with more drastic increases.
“These survey results present a snapshot of the stresses on local government as they attempt to start their fiscal year with little or no direction from the state regarding the level of state aid they will receive, never mind the level of aid they need,” CCM executive director Joe DeLong said in the report.
While many communities have implemented cuts to help alleviate costs, Southington has not done so at the time.
“We haven’t cut anything, just slowed the pace,” Brumback said. “If we cut, it will be based on the actual budget.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.