With no more money to dole out to municipalities, Gov. Dannel Malloy could do little else besides shift money around. So that’s what he did.
Under the governor’s biennial budget unveiled last week, Farmington would still receive the same amount of state aid as it did in 2012-13, but through different grants.
Farmington, for example, would still receive $5,493,324 in 2013-14 as in the present year but through six grants, instead of 10. Across the state, Malloy recommended doing away with towns’ share of several grants, including the PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) grant that reimburses towns for the loss of revenue from state-owned tax-exempt properties. Farmington, particularly, has a large number of state-owned exempt properties that continues to grow with the UConn Health Center expansion and the Bioscience corridor.
But the bottom line continues to add up, thanks to a “hold harmless” grant created to ensure municipalities don’t receive less aid than in previous years.
In addition, the lost PILOT money is funneled into the Education Cost Sharing grant, money paid to the town by the state, to help offset the cost of education. How much each town gets varies and was originally designed to level the educational playing field.
Farmington Finance Director Joseph Swetcky said the changes may make little difference in the town’s budget.
“He’s going to wipe out our state-owned PILOT and a few other grants and put all that money into the ECS grant,” Swetcky said. “He’s basically just shifting money around with no real increase.”
The breakdown of funds and grants that would be eliminated is seen in this document by the Office of Policy and Management, Malloy’s budget office.
But reallocating nearly all of Farmington’s grant money into the ECS grant does not necessarily tie the town’s hands for budgeting. Instead, it seems to be more of a policy suggestion.
“It’s all part of the town budget,” Swetcky said. “When you look at the town budget, that revenue is included with the idea that it’s helping to fund education so when you look at the budget of $90 million, $1.6 million in revenue is in there for this year from ECS."
Swetcky said there doesn’t seem to be any catch that would require the ECS money be spent on education so the town would still be free to use the money as it sees fit.
“If something like this were to go through, it would be a significant change in state policy but it looks like more of an accounting item right now.”
Click here to read a CT Mirror story about the impact of Malloy's proposed budet on state municipalities as a whole.