Local Leaders Help Prep State Senator For Upcoming Legislative Session [Suffield Patch]

February 1, 2012

Article as it appeared in the Suffield Patch
State Sen. John Kissel met Tuesday with the heads of the municipalities within the seventh senate district.

Preparing for the upcoming legislative session, State Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, Tuesday met in Windsor Locks Town Hall with the mayors and first selectmen of the communities he represents in the seventh district.

The participants spoke of frustrations such as dealing with local budgets hampered by unfunded state mandates and the possibility of losing funding.

Edward McAnaney, first selectman of Suffield, said one thing he would like the legislature delete is the minimum budget requirement for education budgets. The law requires that towns fund their education budgets at the very minimum of what it was the year before or face reductions in education cost sharing as a penalty.

McAnaney said that towns have to start their budget at a certain floor and to maintain that level of funding, officials must take from other needed areas in their spending plans to avoid raising taxes.

“That puts the education budget against the other part of the budget,” McAnaney said. “Unless you raise taxes you have to cut from the town side of the budget.”

Kissel said he would have no problem in trying to push that the law be changed. He said there shouldn’t be a case where the school side of the budget is pitted against the town side. There should be flexibility in how town’s approach funding education, he added.

“It’s a failed notion that you have to increase spending to improve education,” Kissel said.

Windsor Locks First Selectman Steven Wawruck said having to meet the requirements of a state audit of American With Disabilities Act accessibility issues has forced the town to take money away from other infrastructure needs.

Wawruck said Windsor Locks has roads that are 40 to 50 years old when they were designed to last 20 to 25 years. The roads need to be replaced but the town doesn’t have the funds to keep up with replacements, he said.

James Hayden, East Granby first selectman, said through the use of Small Town Economic Assistance Program grants and other state grants, the town was able to address six roads last summer. It is the most the town has done in along time, he said.

Wawruck said it would take five years for Windsor Locks to get to that many roads. Windsor Locks also uses state grants for it’s street program.

Kissel said Malloy has designated this upcoming session as the education session. He said he is unsure what Malloy is planning and what will eventually emerge from the legislature but wants to make sure there are no negative impacts on the towns in his district.

“I have to make sure my municipalities are held harmless or get more revenue,” Kissel said.

Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks said one problem his community faces is the poor timing of the completion of the state budget. After Windsor has completed its budget and it’s been approved by voters, the state legislature waits to the end of its session to make decisions on funding for municipalities, he said.

Somers First Selectwoman Lisa Pellegrini said she is concerned about rumors that the legislature may take prison inmate populations out of the mix when considering educational cost sharing funds for communities with correctional facilities.

“I can not tell you what that’s going to do for Somers,” Pellegrini said. “That’s going to fall on the backs of local taxpayers.”

Kissel said she would look into where those rumors are coming from. He said if they are true he would do everything he could to stop it.

Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin said besides ECS funding, Enfield officials are concerned about the possibility of the state requiring all-day kindergartens on every elementary school. With the recent closing of two elementary schools, Enfield doesn’t have enough room to accommodate all of the students for all-day kindergarten.

Kaupin said the town would need money to expand existing schools for the all-day kindergarten. The town is currently coming up with a plan to consolidate its two high schools and that would requiring the expansion of the one high school building.

“We’re trying to lay out a plan,” Kaupin said. “It hinges on voter support.”