Miles away from Hartford, small-town leaders have long been preparing for grant slashes and tax hikes despite Thursday night’s efforts in the state legislature to pass a long-delayed budget.
Thursday’s session was reportedly the last chance for legislators to meet before October, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order will be enacted. If the order goes into effect, municipalities will see slashes in education cost sharing, with small towns bearing the brunt.
That’s left local officials scrambling to uncover strategies that would combat what they are calling the worst-case scenario.
For Voluntown, which is more than 70 percent state forest land, Malloy’s proposed cuts eliminate the PILOT and Mashantucket Pequot grants, which account for $216,000 of the town’s roughly $8 million budget. Although the grants would be replaced with a Municipal Assistance Grant, funding would still be reduced by 42 percent.
Recently, Voluntown reduced Town Hall hours, cut full-time positions to part-time, and eliminated some positions altogether to cut back spending. Now that the town is operating on “bare bones,” First Selectman Bob Sirpenski said there are few places left to cut.
“The municipal side of the budget has made as many cuts as possible. Right now, our only full-time positions in the town are two at Public Works,” Sirpenski said. “Anymore cuts at this point would come from the school system. We can’t absorb a $600,000 to $700,000 cut and that could kill the school.”
Sirpenski said the Board of Education would likely face downsizing staff at Voluntown Elementary to one teacher per grade….
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