Darien, New Canaan weigh governor’s request for detailed financial report
Published 3:06 pm, Thursday, August 17, 2017
DARIEN — The town will comply — but only to a certain degree — with a request from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that each municipality provide the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) with a comprehensive financial report.
“We will give factual information as our fund balance stands today, but given uncertainties of funding cuts from the state and other things we might be required to pick up, I don’t want to make any projections about our future fund balance,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said on Tuesday, though she said at that time a final response had not yet been delivered.
Stevenson said she consulted Board of Finance Chairman John Zagrodzky and other town officials in trying to decide the best response to the Aug. 2 letter addressed from Malloy to OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes and then passed on to municipal leaders.
In the letter, Malloy asked Barnes to send him “information and analysis on municipal aid, local tax levels, expenditure trends, fund balances, and any other criteria that could better inform our decisions,” as they relate to the awarding of municipal aid.
The request came as the state continues to go without an approved budget and Malloy is looking for ways to make up for a $5 billion biennial deficit. Darien’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Grant was cut to $0 for the first time last year, and this year the town faces a potential bill in the ballpark of $5 million if Malloy’s plan to shift teachers’ pension costs back to municipalities is accepted.
“We will comply to most of the request,” Stevenson said, though she added that much of the town’s financial information is already at the “fingertips” of the OPM secretary.
Town officials in Darien’s neighbor to the north, New Canaan, have decided not to comply at all with the governor’s request.
“The state wants to look at healthy and responsible towns, look at their cash reserves and determine if there’s a way to grab them — or at a minimum not fund any other projects or educational issues in town.— all because of a healthy balance sheet,” First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III said on Tuesday.
Upon receiving the letter, Mallozzi said he consulted Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert and Board of Finance Chairman John Sheffield, both of whom supported his position of noncompliance.
Both Stevenson and Mallozzi worried their towns might be punished for their respective fiscal responsibility and healthy fund balance.
According to Mallozzi, the larger hit taken by more affluent towns, especially in Fairfield County, is undue.
“They want to raid our good balance sheet, it’s very clear to me,” Mallozzi said. “The state is trying not to reward financially responsible towns.”
Given the hit to state funding New Canaan has already absorbed, Mallozzi said he is not concerned about the consequences of not heeding the governor’s request.
“What’re they going to do? Say, ‘Mr. Mallozzi, if you don’t comply, we’re not going to fund your town anymore?’ They’ve taken away $4 million this year and next year we’re not projected to get any aid,” Mallozzi said.