North Central Connecticut Leaders Discuss Local Issues In Windsor Locks [Hartford Courant]

February 2, 2012

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

WINDSOR LOCKS —— Seven town leaders from the 7th Senate District met with Sen. John Kissel Tuesday to discuss concerns and local issues before the upcoming legislative session.

Topping the list were worries about unfunded mandates and the state’s Education Cost Sharing minimum budget requirement.

Education Cost Sharing grants require that towns budget at least the same amount for education as they did the previous year, with small reductions allowed for declining student numbers.

“We have to find savings somewhere and typically it comes out of the town side of the budget,” said Suffield First Selectman Edward McAnaney. “It’s extremely burdensome and not being able to reduce [education budgets] puts the town at an enormous disadvantage.”

McAnaney called the idea that you need to have a certain amount of money for a quality education “a failed notion.” He said that with mandated contractual increases being unable to reduce education spending — the largest percentage of the budget in Suffield and most other towns — left the town taking hits year after year.

Other leaders echoed McAnaney’s concerns, saying that they would like to see more flexibility with local education spending.

Kissel said that he will begin the process of drafting a bill to address the issue.

“In these economic times, we should not be putting the town versus education,” he said.

Windsor Locks First Selectman Steve Wawruck and several others also spoke about federal and state mandates, like making playing fields compliant with the American With Disabilities Act, that hurt the towns when they weren’t accompanied by funding.

“All this money has to be put into it when we have all this failing infrastructure,” said Wawruck of ADA work being done at the high school.

Potholes and paving are two other things weighing heavy on the minds of local leaders — most said that their towns had had to use grants or bonding to maintain their roads, a situation many called unsustainable.

In Suffield, voters approved bonding for $3.1 million last year to make drainage and road repairs. Lisa Pellegrini, first selectwoman of Somers, said that her town is also in need of road work and catch basin repair that will “fall back on the taxpayers,” if the town cannot secure grants.

In Enfield, Mayor Scott Kaupin said his town is eager to know about the state’s long-term plans for its Superior Court, motor vehicles office and prison — facilities that narrowly escaped closure last summer when state employees signed Gov.Dannel P. Malloy’s savings-and-concessions deal.