Commentary: Weston needs diligent planning to handle state’s fiscal crisis

Steve Ezzes

Steve Ezzes

Connecticut has a fiscal crisis with large budget deficits projected for the next two years.

I recently met with the Board of Selectmen to discuss my thoughts on how Weston should address the situation. My message follows.

However, since our meeting, the Governor has requested detailed financial information from each municipality with the distinct intent to “tax” the wealthier communities. This despite the fact they have been the most fiscally responsible.

The Board of Finance is formulating proactive plans to continue the excellent services for all members of our community. As the situation in Hartford continues we will keep everyone in Weston aware.

Message to the selectmen

Thank you for inviting me to attend last week’s Board of Selectman meeting to discuss my thoughts on the current fiscal situation in Connecticut and the impact on Weston.

Weston is in excellent financial condition. We began the 2017-2018 fiscal year with a General Fund balance of approximately $13,000,000.

While comforting, the State entered the fiscal year with substantial projected budget deficits of approximately $5 billion for the next two years.

The Connecticut General Assembly is polarized between political parties to the point of being unable to make rational fiscal decisions. This results in not having an approved budget and the Governor managing by executive order.

Weston’s three boards — selectmen, finance and education, anticipated the impasse in Hartford as we developed our budget for FY 2017-18.

As an example, we reduced Educational Cost Sharing to zero, having received $263,000 this past year. This was a reduction from $846,000 in the previous year. Last week, the Governor announced Educational Cost Sharing for the “wealthy communities” will be reduced to zero. Weston was on that list.

Weston has maintained modest budget increases over recent years. This is a result of the non-partisan collaboration of our three boards.

However the lack of fiscal responsibility in Hartford requires Weston maintain our conservative posture as there are large financial issues yet to be determined.

The first, and most disturbing, is the Governor’s proposal to have all towns and cities in Connecticut assume 33% of the yearly cost for teacher’s pensions. While not likely to be adopted as proposed, the impact is approximately $2.3 million. If it were to be instituted in this current fiscal year, Weston would write a check to Hartford.

How will this large expense be funded? Some communities are considering sending incremental tax bills. We will be addressing this in our upcoming Board of Finance meeting.

Because of the financial condition of our State, the polarization in Hartford, and unanswered questions on proposed reductions in state spending, it would be my recommendation Weston continue our diligent financial planning. To that end I propose our boards consider the following:

  • A hiring freeze be instituted.
  • Discretionary capital spending be closely reviewed.

Our responsibility is to provide  the citizens of Weston the best education and services we can offer. The fiscal condition of the State and some municipalities are diverting Weston’s tax dollars away from our community. This requires us to be even more deliberate over coming years.

I am meeting with the Board of Education next week and will have a similar discussion.

Steven Ezzes is chairman of Weston’s Board of Finance.

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