With Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's veto of the General Assembly's (GA) recommended state budget, North Branford town leaders may need to come up with an extra $5.5 million to keep the lights on next year, due to additional state cuts and costs proposed by the Governor in lieu of a state budget. In the meantime, Republican state leaders are continuing to drill down on the best opportunity for a successful legislative vote to override the governor's veto.
If the budget override fails, North Branford's worst-case scenario would be to send out additional tax bills in January with a 4.4 mill increase. That equates to charging a 13.13% tax hike on top of the 4.78% tax increase issued in July; for a total annual tax increase of 18.55%. When the town budget was approved in June, it carried a 1.5 mill increase, moving the mill rate up to 33.51 mills. If the 4.4. mill increase hits, North Branford's mill rate would jump to 37.91 mills.
Other scenarios the Town is considering to face down a potential $5.5 million budget deficit include seeking tax anticipation notes; borrowing an amount to be determined, possibly as much as $2 million, from the town's General Fund Balance; or a combination of all three scenarios. Tax anticipation notes are notes issued by states or municipalities to finance current operations before tax revenues are received.
In addition, the Town Council discussed reducing spending in the town's austere $50.558 million budget, but felt any real savings would have to come from the $30.9 million Board of Education (BOE) side of the budget. Due to state statutes governing the BOE, any school cost savings would be made at the sole discretion of the BOE.
INPUT FROM STATE REP. CANDELORA:
The budget vetoed by the governor on Sept. 28 is a Republican-devised plan that passed in the General Assembly (Senate, Sept. 15; House Sept. 16). The budget passed the House with the assistance of a handful of Democrats, including Branford State Representative Lonnie Reed (D-101).The two-year state budget proposal carries no new taxes, would stop the governor's executive order and restore funding for education and core social services, according to www.cthousegop.com
On Oct. 3, North Branford resident and District 86 State Representative Vincent Candelora (R) arrived from Hartford to share with the Town Council what options remain.
While the House Speaker called the legislature into special session on Oct. 3, Republicans did not agree with the vote on the docket, said Candelora.
"What happened today was we were called into session to override the Governor's veto. But what we were actually called in for is the Speaker wanted to defeat the [General Assembly-approved] budget, because he doesn't want that to be on the table," said Candelora. "So obviously, being the people that supported the budget procedurally, the people that voted in favor of it were not willing to make a motion to defeat it."
By not taking a vote on Oct. 3, "...it's left that budget on the table, intact, and we can still go back to it and override the governor's veto, if needed," Candelora explained. "I think that was important to do, because I frankly didn't think it would go this long without a budget. And we're still in negotiations."
Candelora said he's been working Democrats and Republicans on both sides trying to come up with an agreement, but it's been a difficult process.
"We have a governor who has drawn a line in the sand on what he wants. For instance, he wants teacher retirements shifted on the towns, and he won't bend on that. And you have people in the legislature that don't want to see that shift," said Candelora.
North Branford would need to come up with $1.4 million to pay into the state teachers' retirement fund.
Meetings took place in Hartford yesterday and will continue, said Candelora.
"So at this point my hope is we will get enough people that will agree to override the veto, [then] we'll get a budget in place, and then make tweaks to what we need to [in order to] move forward, rather than to start over."
Because the legislature is currently in special session, the veto override vote can occur anytime during the session, said Candelora. If the legislature were out of session, October 10 would be the last day for a veto override vote.
"As long as we are in special session, the clock doesn't toll, and we have the ability to override the veto," said Candelora. "So that's why we didn't take the vote [Oct. 3]. We said let's leave that where it is. Because at the rate we're going; there may not be another budget, and that may be our only option."
The special session continues until an adjournment is called for, said Candelora,"... and I don't think that would happen until a budget is done. So the speaker could adjourn us; but I couldn't imagine that happening."
But, as Candelora pointed out, towns like North Branford will need to decide how to address the potential budget impacts before much longer.
"My recommendation right now, if we don't have something by November 1, I think we have to assume that we're not going to be receiving that funding," said Candelora. "I don't think we can take a risk of letting this drag out any longer, because I didn't think it would take this long."
Esposito said the Town Council would potentially address the issue when it convenes on November 14, following the biennial municipal election. He said there is also the possibility the council could wait to decide until December if that would still allow the timely printing of additional January tax bills. In the best case, the state will pass a budget that will allow North Branford to avoid the need to come up with additional $5.5 million in revenue, said Esposito.
"Our goal is to wait to the last possible minute to make a decision," said Esposito. "Hopefully, if all goes well; there is some resolution at the state level, and we get the funding we were promised, or something close to it."