Local leaders oppose state budget cuts, tolls, taxes

Looks like Trumbull politicians have found some common ground after all.
Governor Ned Lamont’s budget proposal is generating some pushback on both sides of the aisle. Town Council Republicans are seeking to pass a resolution opposing a proposal to place tolls on Connecticut highways, and First Selectman Vicki Tesoro submitted testimony opposing plans to expand the state sales tax and reduce Trumbull’s state school funding.

Tesoro acknowledged that opposition to both adding tax revenue and reducing spending puts the governor and state legislature in a tough spot. But expanding the sales tax could drive shoppers away from Trumbull-based retailers like the Westfield Trumbull Mall, the town’s largest taxpayer, Tesoro said. And the proposed 24% cut to Trumbull’s Education Cost Sharing grant would force the town to increase property taxes by about $650,000, she said.
“I know it’s tough, and I don’t have all the answers,” Tesoro said. “But I will be an advocate on behalf of Trumbull residents and businesses.”
Town Council Republicans are pushing for a resolution opposing tolls in the state.
“We feel the need to bring awareness to our residents and business about the substantial increase in taxes heading our way from Governor Lamont's proposed budget,” said Minority Leader Carl Massaro. “The tolls, as proposed, will be a punishing cost to traveling Trumbullites on top of Education Cost Sharing grant cuts and teacher pension bills headed our way from the governor.”
The resolution, as proposed to the council’s Legislation and Administration Committee Monday, calls the toll proposal unfair to Trumbull residents and disproportionately reliant on taxing Fairfield County. The resolution warns against the possibility of increased traffic on side roads from motorists seeking to avoid the tolls, and calls on Trumbull’s representatives in Hartford to oppose any attempt to place tolls on I-95, the Merritt Parkway, and any state highway and road that traverses or adjoins Trumbull. The committee passed the resolution without recommendation, meaning it will now head to the full council, most likely on its March 4 agenda.

“Normally the council doesn’t take up matters that are not strictly town business,” Massaro said. “But in this case I feel it’s important to express an opinion on something that will have a substantial effect on Trumbull residents.”
Tesoro, in a written exchange with state Democratic leaders, pointed out that the proposed ECS cuts hit Trumbull harder than many other towns in Fairfield County. In addition, the state groups communities into Demographic Resource Groups (DRGs), and most other towns in Trumbull’s DRG saw less of a cut than Trumbull, Tesoro said.
Trumbull received $2.75 million in school grants this year. Under the proposed 2020 budget the town would receive $2.1 million. In Fairfield County, the 24 communities receive anywhere from $164 million (Bridgeport), to just under $47,000 (Sherman). By percentage, Trumbull would take the largest percentage cut at 23.7%. Other towns, like Darien, Weston, Greenwich and New Canaan would actually see increases, although all those towns receive far less in state aid than Trumbull does.
In DRG B, which includes Trumbull and 19 other towns, the $655,000 reduction would be second only to Monroe’s $734,000 cut. Monroe, though, receives about twice as much state aid as Trumbull. Of the other communities in the DRG, New Fairfield stands to lose about $400,000. Most of the DRG B towns will see smaller school grants, with just Fairfield, Greenwich, Newtown, Simsbury, and West Hartford seeing increases.
“The legislature has to come up with options to deal with issues that Connecticut has,” Tesoro said. “But certain things are very hurtful and shouldn’t be on the table.”