Town holding its breath as state aid cuts announced
NORTH CANAAN â€” The annual town meeting, held Dec. 1, took care of routine business but also addressed important issues, mainly fiscal, for the coming year. Banks used for depositing town funds, authorization for the Board of Selectmen to borrow as needed to meet town expenses and accepting the reports from town offices were quickly approved by the 16 residents in attendance.
Also on the agenda was approval of the purchase of a new town Highway Department truck. The nearly $85,000 cost is already set aside for the purpose.
However, worried that state budget woes may hit too close to home, the selectmen met in a special meeting just a couple hours prior to the Town Meeting. Selectman Susan Clayton later made a motion to table the truck purchase proposal. It passed with one dissenting vote.
First Selectman Douglas Humes explained that the selectmen would wait to make a decision until after Dec. 15, when the state Legislature will meet in a special session to consider budget cuts toward eliminating a deficit of nearly $550 million.
Among the cuts proposed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell is a 3-percent decrease in state aid to towns. The cut is estimated to amount to total $84 million.
â€œItâ€™s unfortunate,â€ Humes said. â€œMaybe Hartford should look to small towns to learn how to run their business.â€
It has been noted by state officials that towns received increases in aid in the last two years, and so are starting at a higher point before any cuts.
The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is lobbying against the cuts, reasoning that it will translate to higher property taxes.
Also proposed by Rellâ€™s budget team is a repeal of a state sales tax reduction that would take effect Jan. 1. The drop from 6 to 5.5 percent is estimated to amount to about $130 million that the state will not get if the tax is reduced. Implementation of the reduction was supposed to be conditional on tax collections staying within 1 percent of projections. Rellâ€™s office announced Dec. 1 that tax revenues had fallen below that threshold.
A committee charged with making recommendations toward balancing the budget has been appointed; it is made up of legislators and municipal officials, including some small-town first selectmen. No one from this area is on the panel.