CCM Policy Reports

 

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Disproportionate Burdens: Major Challenges Facing Connecticut's Poorer Communities

Connecticut's 169 municipalities provide the majority of public services in our state. They fund thesePolicy Report 2014.png services primarily through the property tax, and they must provide these services all while meeting numerous state and federal mandates.

A number of municipalities face additional burdens associated with providing services to some of the neediest populations. These towns and cities are also some of the poorest communities, with limited capacity to fund the necessary services.

Connecticut's distressed municipalities are determined on an annual basis by the State of Connecticut's Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). An outline of the criteria used to determine Connecticut's most distressed municipalities is located in the Appendix.

These municipalities are not limited to the largest cities, nor are they congregated around specific areas in the state. Although all of these municipalities are classified as distressed, they do not necessarily share the same types of hardships. They have varying population densities; disabled population rates; crime rates; and student dropout rates. Yet, they face some of the lowest per capita incomes; low percentages of the population with high school education; low per capita equalized net grand lists; and the highest poverty and unemployment rates. This list is not limited to the most densely populated areas, or the suburbs of Connecticut's biggest cities. Connecticut's distressed municipalities include some of the largest and smallest municipalities from across the state.

                      

CANDIDATE BULLETINS

 Investing in Connecticut's Infrastructure:  Public Safety and Economic Development Implications for Communities and the State

According to a 2013 CNBC poll, Connecticut ranked 49th out 50th in transportation and infrastructure quality.  The passage of time and the slow recovery from a historic recession have created a perfect storm for the deterioration of Connecticut's local roads and bridges. While the State has made strides to increase investments to improve and maintain the state andlocal transportation network, the additional funding has not kept pace with the declining state of our transportation infrastructure.infrasctructure FINAL 100714 (2).png

According to the National Transportation research group, 58% of Connecticut's major urban highways are congested, costing citizens millions each year in wasted time and fuel costs. Additionally, vehicle travel on Connecticut's highways increasedby 19%, from 1990 to 2012, while the State's population grew by nine percent between 1990 and 2012.

The increased use of the state and local road and bridge network has accelerated the decline of Connecticutss local transportation infrastructure. It has led to skyrocketing maintenance costs that require an ever-increasing percentage of stateand local budgets.

In 2010, the federal government and state and local governments spent about $160 billion to build, operate, and maintain road...Almost all of those infrastructure projects were undertaken using a traditional approach in which a state or local government assumes most of the responsibility for carrying out a project and bears most of its risks, such as the possibility of cost overruns, delays in the construction schedule."

The reality in Connecticut is there are no separate state and local transportation networks - they are all interconnected. Funding for, and maintenance and repair of, our transportation networks should be conducted in a more coordinated and equitable manner. Investment in state roads should be done in concert with sufficient investment in local roads and bridges.

In addition to long-term financial commitments, the silo structure of communication, which significantly delays the completion of local projects, needs to be eliminated. State leaders should champion a Municipal Project Liaison program within the State Department of Transportation (DOT). Such an approach would codify state DOT staff (liaisons) responsible for overseeing, coordinating, and streamlining communication and permits among state agencies (i.e., DOT, DECD, DEEP, etc.)
for all approved, local bridge and rail construction projects - and until the completion of such projects. The State's permitting process is uncoordinated and inefficient. Committing long-term investments and improving the processes of approved projects should be fundamental objectives of all transportation and infrastructure plans.

This policy report focuses on Connecticut's local transportation needs and implores our state leaders to make sufficient investments in our local roads and bridges now, so local property taxpayers are not forced to pay exponential costs later.

                                                                                                                                                                                        

Unfunded State Mandates:  The Corrosive Impace & Reaonable Relief Measures

By definition, a state mandate is "any state initiated constitutional, statutory or executive action that requires a local government to establish, expand or modify its activities in such a way as to PPR Mandates Cover Rev.pngnecessitate additional expenditures from local revenues, excluding any order issued by a state court and any legislation necessary to comply with a federal mandate." In practice, it is simply any requirement imposed by the State on towns and cities - many of which burden residential and business property taxpayers with significant costs and siphon precious resources from local services. There are currently over 1,200 state mandates on towns and cities in Connecticut.

As a result, the term "mandates relief" has come to define the appeal of local officials from both political parties to their state partners, for fiscal and administrative reprieve, even if only temporary. These petitions are not naive. Local officials are on the frontlines of service delivery and accept the objectives of many well-intended mandates. However, akin to a garden that requires constant upkeep, there are a variety of species of state mandates that are wilted and overgrown, and in desperate need of attention.

The 2014 General Assembly proved that mandates relief is an achievable legislative goal. Public Act 14-217 represents compromise legislation that now provides municipal officials with an increased ability to determine their Primary Service Area (PSA) providers. This new law, among other things, established a more effective process by which towns and cities, working with the Department of Public Health (DPH), may seek the reassignment of PSAs in order to improve patient care, regionalize services or demonstrate how reassignment would result in efficiencies. However, this small solution toward relief leaves room for more comprehensive reforms.

The solutions to mandates relief are attainable - and such solutions should be addressed by first detailing the most egregious offenders in desperate need of repair. This report outlines the difficulty with specific mandates, as they relate to municipalities, and more importantly, provides the necessary steps in order to jumpstart meaningful property tax relief in our communities.

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Major Issues in Financing PreK-12 Public Education:  Achieving a Balanced Local-State Relationship

In Connecticut, towns and cities are responsible for funding the majority of preK-12 education. That Pages from PPR_education_2014_final for email.jpgmeans that, given the current tax structure, Connecticut is the most reliant state in the nation on the local property tax to fund preK-12 public education.

The cost for public education in our state is over $10 billion, and municipal property taxpayers:

  • Fund 51.6 percent of that amount (more than $5 billion). The State contributes an estimated 42.8 percent and the federal government 5.1 percent.
  • Pay about
    .59 of every $1.00 raised in property taxes toward preK-12 public education.
  • Pay for about 60 percent of Connecticut's $1.8 billion in special-education costs.
  • Pick-up the bill for numerous other state-mandated education priorities that are not fully funded by the State.

The quality of Connecticut's educated workforce is one of the key assets in attracting and retaining businesses. A first-rate education system - and education finance system - is vital for Connecticut's prosperity and quality of life. State law limits municipalities primarily to the property tax for own-source revenue, and when municipalities do not receive adequate state education aid, they are forced to raise property taxes, cut other vital services, or both. Local property taxes cannot continue to shoulder the lion's share of preK-12 public education costs.

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Property Taxes In Connecticut:  How Over-Reliance Thwarts  Towns' Ability to Provide Essential Service

Towns and cities in Connecticut are responsible for providing the majority of public services in oProperty Tax Candidate Bulletin 090414.jpgur state: preK-12 education; public safety; roads and other infrastructure; elderly and youth services; other social services; recreation; and wastewater treatment, among others. They must do so while meeting numerous mandates, often underfunded or unfunded, from both the federal and state governments.

Funding for these critical local public services can come from various sources, including taxes, user fees and charges, revenue sharing, and state and federal aid. In Connecticut, however, there is one revenue source that provides the majority of local funding - the property tax. A property-tax dependent system only works fairly if two conditions exist: (1) the property and income wealth of a community can generate enough property tax revenue at a reasonable cost to taxpayers to meet the need for public services; or (2) state aid is sufficient to fill local revenue gaps. For many communities in our state, neither condition exists.

It is increasingly clear that the over-reliance on the property tax is inadequate for funding local government services in Connecticut, particularly preK-12 public education, and is no longer advisable nor sustainable.

 What worked in 1814 doesn't work in 2014.

 

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