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Cards Are on the Table

Published March 13, 2019

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Listening to proponents of regionalization in Connecticut, you might be left with the impression Connecticut is stuck in a Medieval local government framework of 169 fiefdoms, not separate communities.

Since Connecticut abolished county governments in 1960, our communities have maintained their independence, not to build walls, but continue the republican tradition of providing education, public safety, and infrastructure services at the level closest to its citizens.

As our state became more complex and the need for public services grew, many towns voluntarily banded together. Towns created 17 regional school districts and formed 9 regional councils of government serving the functions of the disbanded county governments. Our courts, waste management, water delivery, health services, law enforcement, and emergency dispatching are currently regionally shared.

Governor Ned Lamont’s new state budget proposals gives us reasons for concern. Will the stick will now be employed?

The budget calls for a school regionalization study this year with plans for implementation in 2020. It also proposes shifting state-negotiated teacher pension costs to our cities and towns. Madison will pay $150,000 more this year.

The budget also has cuts in Education Cost Sharing funding to so-called wealthy towns like Madison. A car tax proposal to create a statewide mill rate would send locally accessed car tax revenue to the state.

I believe in voluntary, not mandatory, approaches to improving the delivery of services. Let’s reward, not penalize, efficient and responsive local governments. Now that all the regional cards are on the table for us to see, I will scrutinize the votes our locally elected members of the General Assembly.

I encourage Legislators to work together and across the aisle on voluntary, incentive-based alternatives to foster state and local cooperation to achieve the best educational outcomes and provide the most efficient, accountable government.

Stephen Somma