February 28, 2019

Senator Haskell Introduces Legislation To Aid Municipal Leaders

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport) announced legislation he submitted to the General Assembly that would provide relief to municipal governments. This legislation aims to provide towns with increased budget stability and greater flexibility when publishing public notices. These changes would solve problems that have frustrated municipal officials in recent years.

“Immediately after Election Day, I reached out to the municipal leaders in my district to learn how I could support their important work. These bills stem from those conversations, and I’m grateful for their input and advice,” said Sen. Haskell.

Senate Bill No. 466, “An Act Prohibiting the Executive Branch from Making Rescissions to a Town’s Education Cost-Sharing Grant During the Fiscal Year,” would restrict the Governor from revoking or canceling Education Cost Sharing grant funding from a town during a fiscal year.

Over the last several years, the executive branch has sought to make drastic cuts to school funding several times, including a potential executive order in 2017 that would eliminate Education Cost sharing funding entirely for more than half of the state’s school districts. The proposals, and the disruption they created for municipal budgets, negatively impact a town’s abilities to make responsible and forward-looking fiscal decisions.

“While we’re facing a statewide budget crisis, taking money that’s already been promised to schools and pulling it away, leaving towns and cities to deal with possible deficits of millions of dollars, is not the answer,” said Sen. Haskell. “It’s time for our state government to take a cue from municipal leaders and plan responsibility for their fiscal future. No governor should have the ability to threaten such massive cuts, especially when the funding is dedicated to something as important as our students.”

“This is a wonderful example of sound thoughtful legislation,” said Weston First Selectman Christopher Spaulding. “It is extremely difficult for municipalities to reopen the budget process. As a result, impacts tend to be less efficient and more impactful, negatively, to citizens.”

Senate Bill No. 515, “An Act Permitting the Online Publication of Legal Notices by Municipalities,” would allow towns and cities to post legal notices online.

This bill would give municipalities more freedom, modernizing statutes that currently require them to post notices in newspapers and in public settings. Current rules restrict municipalities and force them to undergo costly means of communication that are frankly outdated. By allowing them to post these publicly on websites, towns and cities can better advertise matters of public interest where residents will actually see them.
“I represent some towns that don’t have a local newspaper. Why should they be forced to pay for legal notices to be printed in a neighboring town’s paper when instead they could be read by everyone on a local digital news source?” said Sen. Haskell. “We need to modernize our laws to reflect increasingly digital landscape, as citizens are turning more and more toward to the internet for their news. In addition to boosting transparency, this will reduce the significant costs involved with paying to post notices in newspapers, savings municipalities thousands of dollars annually.”

“This is clearly needed in a town like Weston,” said First Selectman Spaulding. “At this point we have little to no realistic circulation of any print media. As such, we have to use neighboring communities’ publications and have serious concerns of posting without adequate exposure. At this stage of media reorganization, this legislation simply makes sense.”

“We support the modernization of CT laws to allow digital publication of public notices because the cost of newspaper advertisements has grown to be a significant expense for our town,” said New Canaan First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.

Senate Bill No. 670, “An Act Lowering the Excess Cost Threshold for Special Education,” would amend state laws to reduce the reimbursement threshold for special education costs from a current rate of 4 ½ times the average cost per pupil to two times the average cost.

“Given the tremendous unpredictability surrounding special education costs, I believe the state should play a larger role providing relief to local education budgets,” said Sen. Haskell. “I am eager to maintain a high quality education for students of every ability. Yet too often, towns are forced to make cuts elsewhere in order to fund programs for a small number of students. This bill is especially important in districts with higher rates of per-pupil spending.”

“Given Weston’s deep devotion to the principle that every child deserves a quality education and given that costs in this area easily outpace revenue and Cost of Living/inflation growth, any relief we can get in this area would be of immense benefit,” said First Selectman Spaulding.