Gov.’s Proposed FY’21 Budget Reduces Wilton Aid Slightly–But It Could’ve Been Worse

Gov. Ned Lamont presented his legislative proposals to the Connecticut General Assembly on Wednesday, Feb. 5, including his 2020-21 adjusted budget proposal.

While tolls and legalizing recreational marijuana use might be some of the bigger headlines coming out of his presentation, municipal grant spending–including Education Cost Sharing grants–was a major part of his proposals.

So what does Wilton stand to get under Lamont’s proposals, and will it be more or less next year in FY’21 than this year (FY’20)? That depends…

Of course, state financials can be moving targets, and they shift, even mid-year. Here’s how the process stands:

Feb. 2019:  Gov. Lamont proposed his biennial budget, for both FY’20 and FY’21. Going into the spring, he also should have had a bond package, but that was held back, something he tied to trying to get toll legislation passed and his debt diet. That meant some grant money that would have gone to towns for municipal projects got held up in Hartford.

May 2019:  The state legislature passed the FY’20 budget is passed–but without the bond package. Because LoCIP, Town Aid Road and Grants for Municipal Projects are bond-funded programs, the towns couldn’t pin down what their exact budgets were in those categories for FY’20. Wilton put the previous year’s amounts as budget placeholders.

Feb. 2020:  Lamont presents his budget adjustments for FY’21–along with his months-late bonding package. Now, if the governor’s budget update is accepted, as is, municipalities can get a better picture of what they’re estimated to receive in state aid (for municipal capital projects, Education Cost Sharing, etc.) not just in FY’21 but also for the current budget year as well.

Materials on the Governor’s website tout that support for towns, noting that the Governor’s proposal, “…maintains his commitment to funding education initiatives by fully funding the Educational Cost Sharing formula.”

The catch? Lamont tied his bonding package to his transportation and tolls plan passing, so nothing is a given. (As an additional side note, the bonding package he proposed is a higher amount than he said last year he would limit the state to, on his “debt diet.”)

So, if Lamont’s adjusted budget proposal is accepted by the legislature without any concessions, what’s the total money Wilton would see from state grants this year and next? And would it reflect an increase or decrease?

Estimated Fiscal Year 2020 State Grants to Wilton

According to figures prepared by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and provided to GOOD Morning Wilton after a request to the first selectwoman’s office, here’s the estimated money Wilton will receive from the state for the current FY’2020 if the bond package is approved [major categories; for the full breakdown, see the chart below]:

ECS:  $462,897
LoCIP (Local Capital Improvement Projects):  $112,543
Town Aid Road:  $315,704
Grants for Municipal Projects:  $583,476
Total:  $1,578,231

Fiscal Year 2021–Original vs. Just Adjusted

The overall numbers Lamont came out with this week for FY’21 state aid to Wilton are higher than what he originally allocated last year–by $275,316 or 21.1%. Here’s how it breaks down in the major categories:

ECS:  $462,615 to $461,796 (-$819 or -0.2%)
LoCIP:  $112,543 to $112,543 (no change)
Town Aid Road:  $316,011 to $315,704 (-307 or -0.1%)
Grants for Municipal Projects:  $307,058 to $583,476 ($276,418 or 90%)
Total:  $1,301,840 to $1,577,156 ($275,316 or $21.1%)

Fiscal Year 2020 vs. Just Adjusted 2021

Now that the town can see what 2020 grants would look like (if the bond package passes), we can compare the difference from one year to the next. Overall, Wilton’s allocation dipped a bit, by $1,075, or 0.1%. Here’s how those major categories break down:

ECS:  $462,897 to $461,796 (-$1,101 or -0.2%)
LoCIP: $112,543 to $112,543 (no change)
Town Aid Road:  $315,704 to $315,704 (no change)
Grants for Municipal Projects:  $583,476 to $583,476 (no change)
Total:  $1,578,231 to $1,577,156 (-$1,075 or -0.1%)

Impact to Wilton

Again, while nothing has been accepted or approved by the legislature, Wilton’s first selectwoman, Lynne Vanderslice, has to have a plan if and when it might get the okay. So what would Wilton do with the extra $276,418 for 2020?

“Now that we have the information, we have to take a look at how we would recommend the spending if we receive it,” says Vanderslice. “In the long term capital plan that we are going to be showing, we have bridge projects, that otherwise would be paid for with our plan to borrow. But we may not have to borrow if we’ll get this money,” she says, adding, “They’re all necessary, so we may decide to put this money into those projects.”

With only five more months left in the fiscal year, however, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to put that money to use if it does get approved. As a rule, if towns don’t use state aid in the year it’s given, they lose it.

If the town doesn’t find out for sure until May, that won’t leave enough time to get the bridge projects put out for bid, scheduled and completed. In that case, says Vanderslice, it would probably be put toward the road paving program.

It’s something she’s become accustomed to with the way state grants and funding happen. “We very much understand, as happens with every budget, a proposal comes out and it’s typically not the final approvals,” she says. “It always changes.”

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