Friday, April 10, 2009

Area leaders lobby for support for local towns

By DAVID HUTTER/Register Citizen Staff

Several municipal elected officials lobbied on behalf of small towns to continue to receive money from the state government at a news conference put on by a variety of bodies at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Wednesday.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities hosted a rally in cooperation with the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents.

Barkhamsted First Selectman Don Stein, Harwinton First Selectman Frank Chiaramonte, Colebrook First Selectman Thomas McKeon and state Rep. John Rigby, R-63, attended the news conference with dozens of other municipal and state elected officials from Connecticut. They listened to a discussion on the Appropriations and Finance Committees budget proposal and its impact on towns and school districts.

Rigby represents Barkhamsted, Canaan, Colebrook, Hartland, Norfolk, North Canaan and Winchester. He is supporting a proposed bill that would allow towns to delay hiring a company to conduct a revaluation process by three years.

"While the towns are dealing with an economic recession, there is less availability of state money," Rigby said.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities conducted a survey about the way in which towns are being impacted by the economic recession. Towns are being forced to eliminate employees, not increase programs and reduce programs.

The Barkhamsted Board of Selectmen crafted a proposed budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 that keeps existing services and simultaneously avoids an increase in taxes. The Barkhamsted Board of Selectman crafted a zero percent increase budget of $1,723,049, which is $26 lower than the ongoing fiscal year’s budget.

"There is a very strong push (among municipal leaders) that the state needs to cut its spending habits," Barkhamsted First Selectman Don Stein, a Democrat, said. "We’ll be looking at a difficult economy for several years."

The Harwinton Board of Selectmen crafted a proposed budget for fiscal year 2009-2010 of $5,199,287, or an increase of 1.02 percent.


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