City officials contend with unknown state budget

Published on Tuesday, 16 May 2017 20:44
Written by Lorenzo Burgio

Staff Writer

BRISTOL - Revisions made to the governor’s proposed budget on Monday night to decrease the deficit and general fund expenditures would impact municipal budgets and shows a renewed interest in removing property tax exemptions for hospitals.

“The state must live within its means. We cannot spend more than we take in. That’s why, when revenue came in lower than expected in April, we went back to the table to redraft our budget proposal,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press release.

“This session, the best outcome we can achieve for the people of the state is to adopt a responsible, balanced budget that does not rely heavily on new or increased taxes,” Malloy added.

Malloy’s proposal would shift a total of $400 million in teacher pension costs onto municipalities for the next two years, that could result in higher taxes for Bristol.

This includes $7.1 million that Bristol would not receive from the state toward its pension costs, which prompted the Bristol City Council to make alterations to its adopted budget during Monday’s joint meeting with the Board of Finance, explained City Comptroller Glenn Klocko.

The council had to adopt a budget Monday night in order to send it to the finance board for revision and approval by the end of the month.

There was no action to accommodate the expected reduction in revenue, explained Klocko.

“Everything is in part to close the deficit. Changes to pension costs are the biggest blow for the city. Last night (Monday night) we took out $3 million from the budget to lower the mill rate,” said Klocko. “Every day the numbers are different. We are a moving target right now and are going with the numbers we have. If cuts get larger we can change the budget to balance it.”

The city could see an increase in taxes if it has to put back the funds for teacher pension costs, explained Mayor Ken Cockayne.

“The city is watching and in waiting mode right now,” said Cockayne. “If there is a tax increase, this is why. Spending would be cut if we have to put back the $7.1 million.”

The governor’s revisions to the state budget to decrease general fund expenditures show a renewed interest in removing state hospitals’ tax exemption status and eliminating the Medicaid supplemental pool for small hospitals.

The proposal estimated that the city would generate $1,958,564 in revenue each year from property tax from Bristol hospitals.

It also calls to maintain larger categories of municipal aid, but eliminates smaller grant programs, which includes eliminating the supplemental and small hospital pool.

Chris Boyle, director of public relations and marketing at Bristol Hospital, explained that Bristol Hospital is one of six hospitals that are currently part of the pool.

The pool totals $11.8 million that is split between the six hospitals.

“The proposed budget could be devastating for Bristol Hospital and all other hospitals. If these actions begin with hospitals, what will happen with other nonprofits?” said Boyle. “The cuts could delay upgrading state-of-the-art equipment, but we will not sacrifice patient safety.”

“The hospital will continue to provide despite these obstacles and be dedicated to patient safety and care,” said Boyle. “We luckily have great supports from the community and local government, and about 10,000 emails have been sent by the community to legislation opposing these changes.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Forestville, General News on Tuesday, 16 May 2017 20:44. Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2017 20:47.