Darien, New Canaan weigh governor’s request for detailed financial report
NEW CANAAN — The town will not comply with a request from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that each municipality provide the Office of Policy and Management with a comprehensive financial report.
“The state wants to look at healthy and responsible towns, look at their cash reserves and determine if there’s a way to grab them,” New Canaan First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III said on Tuesday. “Or at a minimum not fund any other projects or educational issues in town — All because of a healthy balance sheet.”
The request came in an Aug. 2 letter addressed from Malloy to OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes and then passed on to municipal leaders.
Upon receiving the letter, Mallozzi said he consulted Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert and Board of Finance Chairman John Sheffield, both of whom supported his position of noncompliance.
“The state can get that information. We have to report a variety of facts and figures relative to the financial help of our town,” Mallozzi continued. “We’re not going to aid them in disseminating that information.”
Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson felt similarly.
“The OPM secretary already has all of that info at his fingertips,” Stevenson said.
After consulting with Board of Finance Chairman Jon Zagrodzky and other town officials, Stevenson said Darien will comply to a degree, adding it was unlikely the town would provide any future projections to the state.
“We will give factual information as our fund balance stands today, but given uncertainties of funding cuts from the state and other things we might be required to pick up, I don’t want to make any projections about our future fund balance,” Stevenson said.
Like Mallozzi, she worried the request would result in a decrease in support for her town based on its fiscal responsibility and healthy fund balance.
In the letter, Malloy asked Barnes to send him “information and analysis on municipal aid, local tax levels, expenditure trends, fund balances, and any other criteria that could better inform our decisions,” as they relate to the awarding of municipal aid.
The request came as the state continues to go without an approved budget and Malloy is looking for ways to make up for a $5 billion biennial deficit. New Canaan's Education Cost Sharing (ECS) Grant, was cut to $0 for the first time last year, and this year faces a potential bill in the vicinity of $4 million if Malloy’s plan to shift teachers’ pension costs back to municipalities is accepted.
According to Mallozzi, the larger hit taken by more affluent towns, especially in Fairfield County, is undue.
“They want to raid our good balance sheet, it’s very clear to me,” Mallozzi said. “The state is trying not to reward financially responsible towns.”
Given the hit to state funding New Canaan has already absorbed, Mallozzi said he is not concerned about the consequences of not heeding the governor’s request.
“What’re they going to do? Say, ‘Mr. Mallozzi, if you don’t comply, we’re not going to fund your town anymore?’ They’ve taken away $4 million this year and next year we’re not projected to get any aid,” Mallozzi said.