Municipalities win in short term, lose over long haul with Lamont’s new budget

Connecticut cities and towns gain in the short term but lose out over the long haul in the new two-year Gov. Ned Lamont proposed Wednesday.

Using federal coronavirus pandemic relief dollars and state bonding, municipalities would get an extra $320 million next fiscal year and $220 million more in 2022-23, with a strong focus on the poorest communities.

Bu Lamont, who had to close a projected deficit of roughly $2.6 billion over the next two fiscal years combined, suspended an ongoing initiative to ramp up education grants to local districts.

He also may have dealt a death blow to a program that was supposed to share more than $300 million annually in state sales tax receipts with cities and towns, and while he did pledge communities a share of the revenues from the proposed taxation of cannabis sales, that represents a tiny fraction of the sales tax receipts they were promised.

“This past year has been an exceptional challenge to our cities and towns,” Lamont said in his budget address. “There isn’t a single mayor who in 2019 budgeted for a pandemic in 2020, and they are struggling to build this new reality into an already tight budget for and beyond.”

That said, most of the new money Lamont would distribute to cities and towns wouldn’t come out of the state’s coffers.

More than $400 million in federal relief for local school districts

The largest chunk, by far, involves about $220 million in federal pandemic relief funds that are designated in each of the next two fiscal years for local school districts.

But some legislators are worried, because the money runs out in two years but the problems created by the coronavirus might not go away — ever.

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