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A bonding package adopted by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont in mid-March means Chester, Deep River, and Essex are closer to receiving annual state funding for road infrastructure projects and capital improvements.
The package, which typically would have been adopted last June, when the state adopted its budget, was held up by political wrangling involving the governor’s transportation plan and the controversial topic of reinstating highway tolls in Connecticut.
The governor, who aimed to put the state on what he called a “debt diet,” re-prioritized his bonding projects after the legislature would not take up his transportation package. In addition to municipal funding, the bonding package includes $5 million in grants to state agencies and towns to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
There are three major pay-outs to municipalities for Fiscal Years 2019–’20 (FY 20) and 2020–’21 (FY 21) under the package. They are derived from the state’s Town Aid Road (TAR) program, Grants for Municipal Projects, and reimbursement from the Local Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP).
“Essentially, the ‘debt diet’ has taken a bit out of most town’s allocations,” said State Representative Christine Palm (D-36) in email correspondence with the Courier. “I’m glad ours were relatively small cuts. It’s part of shoring up our state’s financial picture in general, along with growing the Rainy Day Fund, and other ways we’ve improved our overall rating.”
In Essex, a strong financial footing means no delay in town projects earmarked with state bond funds.
“Fortunately, we’re well funded so we don’t have to wait to do the work,” said Essex Finance Director Kelly Sterner. “For municipalities where funds are a little tighter, you might have to wait until the money is received before you can pull the trigger on the project. We’re fortunate that we can self-fund until the funds are received.”
Essex will receive a total of $329,807 in bonded aid across the three major categories in FY 20 and the same amount in FY 21, a reduction of $6,499 from 2018–’19 (FY 19), the last year for which bonding was approved.
The town will receive $214,767 for TAR in FY 20 and FY 21, a $250 difference from the $214,517 received in FY 19. For LoCIP, Essex will receive $40,493 in FY 20 and FY 21, a decrease of $6,749 from the $47,242 received in FY 19.
The town’s municipal project funding remained constant from the FY 19 figure at $74,547 for FY 20 and FY 21.
With trees afflicted statewide by numerous factors including invasive insects, the legislation also expands the categories eligible for reimbursement under LoCIP from road, bridge, and public building construction projects to removal or trimming of hazardous trees on municipal property.
Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald says the town is considering taking advantage of the new spending categories under LoCIP.
“We may use it for sidewalk expansion,” he said. “We may have to end up using it this year for the removal of dead trees.”
Overall, Deep River will receive a total of $333,492 in bonded aid for FY 20 and the same amount in FY 21, a reduction of $5,241 from FY 19.
For TAR, the town will receive $197,901 in FY 20 and FY 21, a $1 change from FY 19. Under LoCIP, Deep River will receive $31,455 for FY 20 and FY 21, a $5,242 difference from FY 19. Grants for municipal projects in Deep River remain at $104,136 for FY 20 and FY 21.
“We expected [the funds] when we put our budget together,” said McDonald. “It got very close to where we were planning projects in the spring without knowing whether we had that money. Now we have it, so we’re all set.”
Chester First Selectman Lauren Gister was pleased by the recent actions by the state legislature and Governor.
“This is money that we get to improve our infrastructure. Without it, we’re in trouble,” Gister said. “Because they had to actually pass the bill, we were a little worried. This is the money from last year’s budget that we’re still waiting for.”
Chester will receive a total of $307,978 in bonded aid for FY 20 and the same amount in FY 21, a reduction of $4,829 from FY 19.
For TAR, the town will receive $190,280 in FY 20 and FY 21, a difference of $89 from FY 19. Under LoCIP, Chester will receive $28,434 in FY 20 and FY 21, a difference of $4,739 from FY 19. And for municipal projects, Chester will see no change from FY 19 with $89,264 for FY 20 and FY 21.
These grants will be made available to towns upon approval by the State Bond Commission.
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