State Budget Cuts Hit Newington
NEWINGTON - They say the first cut is the deepest--well, not really, at least not in this case.
Governor Dan Malloy is slashing another $243,332,605-at least-from the state budget, a reduction that would bring the total amount of cutbacks to $413,777,298 and word is that the final version may eliminate more. Malloy cut $170,444,693 in spending last month--the 5 percent he is allowed without convening with the legislature.
In towns like Newington, officials are paying attention to areas such as healthcare, education, and transportation. What impact will the budget reduction measures have at the local level? Nobody is sure yet, said Newington Town Councilor Terry Borjeson.
“I think we’re kind of in a wait and see pattern,” Borjeson said during a phone interview.
Notable healthcare-related cuts include a $2,200,000 net reduction for Medicaid services in nursing home facilities. Medicaid saw a $6,300,000 net decrease for acute care services in hospitals, while $26,848,684 was eliminated for disproportionate share medical emergency assistance. Pharmacy dispensing also saw cuts; it will have $850,000 less to work with under the reduction plan.
On the transportation side, Malloy cut $1,810,156 from the Transit Improvement Program, and $1,623,058 that would have gone toward highway and bridge renewal equipment. Pay-as-you-go transportation projects also took a hit--a $2,999,278 slash in spending.
“I think it’s just the totality of the thing,” Borjeson said. “We’re getting nickeled and dimed on everything.”
Borjeson criticized $75,642 cut to tourism district funding, noting that this area is usually a source of revenue for the state.
“It’s proven that tourism brings in the money,” he said. “It brings in more money than you spend.”
Malloy opted to cut $3,000,000 in spending on magnet school tuition, a sore subject in Newington, where the Board of Education spends between $5,000 and $7,000 per student and “hundreds of thousands” in magnet school tuition dollars per year, according to Newington Superintendent of Schools William Collins.
“That’s $3 million that’s going to get thrown back at the towns,” Borjeson said.
In an interview last month, Collins said that he expects to require at least $600,000 in order to successfully implement education reform mandates in teacher training and evaluation, among others.
Less spending by the state for magnet school tuition means more money out of the pockets of districts, although Newington is unsure as to how great an impact this portion of the cuts will have.
“Three million sounds like a lot of money, but spread out across the entire state, it won’t kill you,” Borjeson said. “But you look at all the other cuts to education, to Medicaid, and that could potentially have a lot of impact on the towns.”
Mastery exam development for grades four, six, and eight will be short $750,000. Talent development is taking a $2,725,000 cut.
Newington Mayor Stephen Woods expects the town to have to juggle compensating for state level cuts and meeting the requirements of unfunded mandates.
“If the money’s not there and you don’t have it, how do you expect us to find it?” Woods said of the unfunded mandate. “You can’t expect us to perform services if you don’t want to pay.”