Could City Get $28 Million?
If Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget were to pass unchanged, New Britain could get an additional $28 million more from the State for fiscal year 2017-18.
With months of budget negotiating by legislators still to come, Mayor Erin Stewart said a lot will change by completion in June.
“Preliminary it’s difficult to tell because the devil is in the details. Right now there is over 20 different bills that deal with the budget,” said Stewart. “I don’t know the biggest impact because it is all in different parts. On the face of it, it is looking like we are getting $28 million more, but that $28 million is coming from the ability to tax the hospitals and collect that tax.”
Taxing hospitals has been causing controversies across the State. New Britain has in town the Hospital of Central Connecticut and the Hospital for Special Care.
“Overall, the Governor is trying to bring equality to the formulas that are outdated. It has been gerrymandered by legislators throughout the years,” said Stewart. “If you had strong representation by your legislators in Hartford, you inevitably received more money because that is how legislatures has done things. Now it needs to be fixed.”
Stewart said that urban areas benefit greatly from Gov. Malloy’s proposed budget.
“In what accounts we budget in is where the questions are. If that money is all in education money, the City does not benefit,” said Stewart.
If the money does not go all towards education, the money would probably go towards debt reduction.
“Debt first because we have to lower debt before we can think about lowering taxes,” said Stewart. “We are shuffling funds around and trying to refinance so we can keep our payments down. Everybody wants to lower [taxes] but we won’t see sustainable lower taxes unless we can pay off older debt.”
New Britain has over $250 million in debt which is higher than the City’s annual budget of a bit over $240 million.
Stewart has meetings set up with State budget analysts as well as with office and policy management to help better understand where each dollar in the budget is going.
“The Governor’s budget is only the first step in a very long process. By the time this budget is voted on in June it will be a different animal,” said Stewart. “There are many competing interests.”
Many suburban towns are getting less money in the proposal and will fight to get more funds back.
“It is difficult for me to hear that a smaller town with a population that is much more well-to-do than the residents of our City – where the average income is $40,000 or less – to tell me that they can’t handle it (the reduction in State funds),” said Stewart. “You look next door where taxes are about 30 mills. If every city had a stabilizer mill rate there wouldn’t be a competition. It wouldn’t pitch one town against another.”
Stewart said residents need to contact New Britain legislators as well as those in other towns and tell them to give more funds to New Britain.
“Be an urban voice amongst the State budget mix. Urban voices are often missed,” said Mayor Stewart. “The majority of legislatures are represented by the suburban representatives. They don’t think about the people struggling in the Cities. The wealth gap continues to grow and grow.”