The lack of a budget at the state level has left towns and cities in Connecticut in a state of suspended animation.
It is more than a little discouraging to note that, according to a recent Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) survey on the impact of our state budget crisis, almost half of the municipalities in Connecticut have had to implement a spending freeze or reduction of services to compensate for this era of uncertainty. Halting or slowing of hiring; reduced work hours and a freeze on raises for town employees; a cut to student employment programs; and curtailed recreation opportunities are just a few of the actions towns have taken to offset what could be substantial cuts to aid. Not just the health of towns, but personal livelihoods of town employees are compromised as these measures are put in place, assuming cuts to come.
Only small increases in spending have been approved by many local governments, and even those numbers may have to be adversely adjusted if state funding falters.
Whether a town or city has been fiscally responsible or not, all are being punished with the fear of the unknown and most will be punished by diminished money to keep a municipality going and growing, once a state budget is in place.
Newtown has taken a proactive stance to the situation, reflected in the budget passed in April. Responding to the CCM survey, Newtown Finance Director Robert Tait told The Newtown Bee that reduced spending had been applied locally to road projects and school maintenance projects. Those projects that are affected will not affect public or student safety or student programming.
Police protection has not been cut; our parks and library continue to offer the services our residents count on for recreation and education; and our town officials have promised not to send out supplemental tax bills, unlike the actions other cities across Connecticut have had to take or may have to put in place.
But any delay in public projects will have an impact now or, shall we say, down the road. Problematic roads will become more problematic — and costly to repair — when put on hold. Maintenance means keeping all in the best working order, so to delay school maintenance means being satisfied with a bit less than ideal functionality. Balancing available funds with needs is never an easy task, and having to move forward with the assumption of making do with less makes that task so much more difficult.
Connecticut’s citizens expect a high quality of lifestyle; the conundrum of our state budget does dim that expectation.
While state officials dither on finalizing a budget, local governments and residents of the state remain in a limbo not of their own making. There is a push at the state level to vote on a workable budget by month’s end, and we hope that state legislators come to an agreement sooner rather than later.
The citizens of Connecticut deserve to know what is in store. Holding Newtown and the other municipalities in the state hostage as to their financial futures is unacceptable.