Local leaders decry $50M in midyear Connecticut aid cuts

Markets Associated Press

Education and municipal leaders voiced dismay Friday about $50 million worth of midyear cuts to state aid for local schools and governments, predicting the move could lead to employee layoffs.

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The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the state's largest association of cities and towns, called the cuts announced by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget office "untenable," given that local budgets are already set.

"Towns and cities have already included these aid commitments in their budgetary spending plans for this fiscal year," the association said in a statement.

Officials from Malloy's office note that $20 million in the midyear cuts, which mostly affect Connecticut's largest education grant, was included in Malloy's changes to the fiscal year 2017 budget. However, it was unclear at the time how much each city and town would lose.

In a letter Thursday to legislative leaders, Malloy's budget director, Ben Barnes, said the reductions will be applied to January 2017 and April 2017 Education Cost Sharing grant payments and will be made "in a needs-directed manner" with wealthier communities taking a bigger hit. The fiscal year runs until June 30.

Joe Cirauolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Superintendents, said local school officials were surprised by the news.

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"It would have been a lot better if we knew about it in July, then we could have planned on it," he said, predicting some districts may be forced to lay off teachers because they've already spent funds on books and maintenance.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said the remaining $30 million cut in capital funding for a local infrastructure program known as LoCIP "goes far beyond cuts called for in the state budget."

But Malloy's budget office said the change is really a temporary freeze on new infrastructure project authorizations, affecting only reimbursements beyond the $825 million lawmakers authorized.

"If a project is already approved and has a LoCIP project number, the towns can still request reimbursement," said Chris McClure, spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management. "The towns across the state are still receiving $825 million — the exact amount authorized by the General Assembly."