House Passes State Budget

 State Representatives Phil Young (D-120th) and Joseph Gresko (D-121st) are thrilled that the budget has passed and anticipate that it will have a positive impact in Stratford.

The Connecticut House of Representatives has approved the state budget for the next two years.

“This comprehensive budget heavily invests in Stratford as well as other towns and cities around the state,” said Rep. Young. “The agreed upon budget was able to provide much needed funds to institutions without raising taxes or dipping into the rainy-day fund. It was an excellent achievement that focuses on the present while simultaneously prepping for the future.”

“This fiscally responsible budget pays down long-term debt and keeps our robust rainy-day fund while providing middle class tax relief in the form of an increased Earned Income Tax Credit,” said Rep. Gresko. “The investment in Stratford’s Education Cost Sharing formula and increase in town aid means our community will continue to receive the funds it needs to thrive.”

The $46.4 billion budget, an agreement worked out between Governor Lamont and the Democratic majority, will increase funding for municipalities, nonprofit organizations and working families. The budget also contains additional funding for institutions impacted by the pandemic, such as hospitals, local health departments, and tourist destinations.

Below is a breakdown of some of the provisions included in the budget:

Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses
Certain businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and bars are permitted to keep 13.6% of the 7.35% sales tax they collect on sales of meals and beverages for Fiscal Year 2022. This tax relief will be beneficial to local businesses that suffered during the pandemic.

Through the budget, financial relief will be provided to culture-based institutions, such as museums, art centers, and tourist hotspots. Similarly, the admissions tax has been eliminated for entertainment venues.

The budget also increases the state’s earned income tax credit to 30.5% of the federal credit. This will provide tax credit for qualifying low-income working families with children.

Finally, the budget expands state income tax exemptions for seniors on social security and pension.

No Tax Increases
The budget does not include any new taxes or tax increases on increases on gasoline, insurance policies, or large Connecticut households.

Support for Our Communities
Hospitals, local health departments and nonprofits were allocated additional funding to ensure that they have resources necessary to combat any public health emergency in the future.

Additionally, state agencies will be given the tools to reopen safely, allowing them to serve Connecticut’s residents to the best of their ability.

Finally, because of an expansion, 40,000 residents now have access to affordable healthcare.

Financial Stability in the State’s Future
Connecticut did not have to utilize any of the $3.5 billion in the Rainy-Day Fund. The state is able to maintain one of the largest Rainy-Day funds per capita in the country. The balance of the fund has allowed the state to keep interest rates low on debt service and allows for the growth continued growth to our state bond cap. These factors have led to Connecticut’s first credit upgrade in nearly two decades.

Jumpstarting the Economy
There is a great amount of investment that aims to resurrect the Connecticut economy– the budget includes funding for debt free college and workforce training programs. Funds will also be allocated to the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) and to minority-owned businesses around the state. These provisions were included to bolster the state’s economy while promoting equitable business practices.

The 2021 Legislative Session ended June 9.

Councilmember Spotlight: Greg Cann

Fifth District Councilman Greg Cann

Stratford Crier’s mission is to inform and update Stratford residents on various categories of interest, community events, pertinent information, and/or input into specific tasks or project. We would like to highlight the work, dedication and projects of our elected officials, beginning with town council members. Stratford Crier is posing the following questions to each of these elected officials to find out more about what inspires them in this position and what they hope to accomplish in their term.

My family has resided in Stratford for 30 years and four generations. We’ve volunteered with Sterling House, Nichols Elementary and a multitude of other public schools, community groups and faith-based organizations. Civics is very core to our values. Stratford is our home.

1. What do you see as the needs of your district at the present?
District 5 (D5) is a diverse community, located in the area west of Broadbridge and north of Boston Avenue. There are a few small businesses, but primarily D5 consists of low and moderately priced residences—perfect entry-level homes for young families.

The town’s recent re-evaluation of residential property resulted in an average 20% increase in homeowner property taxes with all multifamily and duplexes increasing by 40%—note the town-wide average was 4%. The tax burden has now shifted to entry-level workers, young families and seniors; this means an extra $800-$1600 per year in property taxes for these homeowners and renters. Furthermore, the town is increasing taxes on used automobiles by 15%. The primary need of residents is a safe and secure residence that is also affordable.

Residents have also expressed needs for:
a. Improved traffic controls, especially speeding. Success and Canaan Avenues experience high traffic as drivers move between Bridgeport and Stratford.
b. Town-owned trees, pruning and upkeep, as safety of sidewalks is compromised unless completed.
c. Maintenance of the district’s three neighborhood parks to assure public access to recreation.
d. Public safety, law and order, and enforcement of rules and regulations.

2. What is your vision for your district’s future?
I want to see improved maintenance of town-owned neighborhood parks, roads and sidewalks as well as better enforcement of traffic regulations (one factor in public safety). Increased interaction between residents will increase their mutual sense of community. I would like to see more awareness of and participation in how the town creates a budget and allocates its own resources. Improved employment and job security through economic development is also needed.

3. What is your vision for the town?
Stratford is a highly diverse community. Students in our public schools speak over 50 different languages with a similar range of cultural backgrounds. From Forest to Shore, we need a town that reflects and represents this diversity. Every organization is exposed to politics, but only the successful ones rise above politically motivated “excuses.” True leaders will build an organization that meets the needs of its customers; in our case, this would be the taxpayers and public school students. I see complete streets and greenways connecting our neighborhoods and business districts, facilitating the interaction of commerce and recreation.

I see Stratford becoming a regional destination with its many museums, and revitalized athletic and cultural arts programming attracting visitors to our retail and restaurants. This improved dynamic will entice employers. Stratford has been very slow to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century, and our municipal leaders must step up their game, else our town will not realize its competitive opportunities.

4. What is your vision of collaboration between administration and residents in making Stratford a great community?
Unfortunately, Stratford’s municipal administration retains its fondness for resolutions and reports but has not successfully implemented solutions. Our town is increasingly reliant on state and federal grants to balance its operating budget, while we should be growing organically.

• The town-managed Center School and Contract Plating projects are each three years behind schedule.
• Despite a 40% increase in per student expenditures, 50% of our public school students continue to perform “below grade level.”
• A $20 million theatre burned down a few months after the town expended $1.5 million to “secure” the building.

When something great happens, such as the new Stratford High School, the re-engineering of I-95 Exits 32 and 33, or the property tax credits for residents whose homes are in flood zones, it’s been due to the intervention of the state and federal governments.

Stratford residents are not powerless; encouraging them to adapt the civic responsibilities of public advocacy is probably the highest role of a town councilor. Once Stratford is able to demonstrate “local control” and the ability to deliver on its promise, then I believe residents will recognize that “you can talk to town hall” and will be further encouraged to participate in the administration of our town.

5. How do you see town residents’ role and participation in making Stratford a great community?
I’ve always been a firm believer in the ability of residents to organize and create improvements. From a District 5 perspective, neighbors cooperate with neighbors to help each other, and to coordinate solutions for their mutual benefit. People have so many ways to participate; when each of us finds our niche, that is the basis of a great community.

Working with the municipal government of Stratford has been a challenging and sometimes rewarding endeavor for me personally. There is inertia at the start of every project; I’ll forever encourage each of us to adapt this Kennedy-esque adage: “Ask not what your town can do for you, but rather, what can you do for your town.”

We Should Be Doing Better

Stratford Designated a Distressed Municipality

Did you know Stratford has been designated a Distressed Municipality by the State of Connecticut?
Do you know why?

Other than reading information posted on Facebook and other social media sites, including news publications, is all you know is that because of this designation Stratford was awarded over $4.7 million?

A recent Letter to the Editor authored by Stratford resident Rachel Rusnak clearly presented Stratford’s “Dis-honor” of being designated a Distressed Municipality.

“In a blow to the residents of Stratford for the second time in 15 years, we have the unfortunate distinction of landing on the State of Connecticut’s Distressed Municipalities list. A dis-honor I’m sure most of us would have rather avoid; we find ourselves among the top 25 impoverished communities out of 169, and one of only two in Fairfield County.”

Rusnak also noted “Stratford last appeared on the list in 2012, under the guidance of former Mayor Harkins. Since then, in 2018 the Yankee Institutes’ “Assessing Municipal Fiscal Health in Connecticut” identified Stratford as the third worst-off municipality in the state, based on general fund balances, long-term obligations, pension contributions, and changes in unemployment rates and property values.”

Overview:
Stratford ranked #24 out of 25 municipalities (out of 169 towns and municipalities) in the State that are considered Distressed.

Updated annually, the Distressed Municipalities’ lists identify the state’s most fiscally and economically distressed municipalities and are used by state agencies to target funds for needs which may include housing, insurance, open space, brownfield remediation and economic development programs, among others.

The lists develop statistical indicators measuring the fiscal capacity of each municipality based on:

  • Tax base
  • Personal income of residents
  • Residents’ need for public services

According to C.G.S. Section 32-9p, a distressed municipality should be based on “high unemployment and poverty, aging housing stock and low or declining rates of growth in job creation, population, and per capita income.

Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Methodology:

Weighted components are summed to measure the rank of the 169 towns. For each component, every town is ranked from 1 to 169, with the best town scoring 1 and worst 169. The top 25 towns with highest total scores are designated distressed municipalities.

DECD’s components and weight:
1. Per capita income for 2018, weight 1;
2. % of poverty in population for 2018, weight 1;
3. Unemployment rate for 2019, weight 2;
4. % change in population from 2000 to 2010, weight 1;
5. % change in employment from 2009 to 2019, weight 1;
6. % change in per capita income from 2000 to 2018, weight 1;
7. % of house stock built before 1939 in 2018, weight 1/3;
8. % population with high school degree and higher in 2018, weight 1; and
9. Per Capita Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List in 2020-2021, weight 1.

DECD additionally included:
(1) Level of Per Capita Income
(2) % of population with high school degree and higher and
(3) .Per Capita Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List (AENGL) to arrive at its ranking.

Data sources: Census 2000, Census 2010, 2014-2018 Census American Community Survey 5-year Estimates, DOL, DOE

2020 Distressed Municipalities Rankings
Ranked by Score

Ansonia 1417 1
Waterbury 1378 2
New London 1366 3
New Britain 1359 4
Derby 1347 5
Hartford 1309 6
Bridgeport 1304 7
Bristol 1292 8
Windham 1283 9
Torrington 1281 10
Sprague 1275 11
Norwich 1238 12
East Hartford 1228 13
Montville 1216 14
Griswold 1212 15
Voluntown 1203 16
East Haven 1202 17
Winchester 1184 18
Meriden 1180 19
New Haven 1180 20
Putnam 1165 21
Preston 1159 22
West Haven 1153 23
Stratford 1151 24
Chaplin 1150 25

Prepared by DECD Research September 2020

Thanks to our distressed status Stratford is on track to receive an additional $4,719,720 from the Distressed Municipalities pot, which is funded via state bonds, and in this fiscal year through the Cares Act. (The Mayor’s Proposed 2022 Operating Budget misidentifies this revenue as “State Covid Funding”, however, the Governor’s budget is very clear that this funding is a result of Stratford being identified as a “Distressed Municipality”.)

Question: As a Stratford Resident is this how you want our Town to be labeled?

What do you think we should do to move Stratford Forward?
Please comment via: Editor@stratfordcrier.com
Thank you.

Meet Your Councilman” Dave Harden, District 4

Editor’s Note: Councilman Dave Harden was contacted multiple times, and did not submit answers to our questions, or respond to repeated attempts to interview him.

 

Ask the Registrar – Stratford, CT

Your place to get questions answered about voting and local elections in Stratford

By Democratic Registrar James Simon.

Q. Why are there more Independent voters in Stratford than Democrats or Republicans?
There aren’t. In Connecticut, “Independent” is the name of a political party. Only 485 of the 35,150 Stratford voters were registered with ANY of the minor political parties, as of May 11, 2021.

If you don’t belong to a party in Connecticut, you are labeled as Unaffilated. There were 15,159 Unaffiliated voters in Stratford, compared to 13,191 registered Democrats and 6,315 Republicans, as of May 2021.

Q. Is there any disadvantage to being an Unaffiliated voter?
You must be a member of the Republican or Democratic Party in order to vote in that party’s primary. If you are Unaffiliated, you can vote in a party primary as long as you join the party by noontime on Monday the day before the primary. If you already belong to one of the major parties and want to switch and vote in the other party’s primary, you need to act 90 days before the primary election.

Q. Why does Stratford use public schools as polling places?
Tradition, availability, and the high visibility of schools. To maintain polls in all 10 districts, Stratford needs our schools!

Stratford school officials also have been very cooperative in making their facilities available. Elsewhere, Registrars of Voters have had to threaten to use a state regulation that allows them to “commandeer” part of a school in order to use it as a polling location.

Q. Will I be able to use an Absentee Ballot to vote in the Stratford town elections this fall?
We don’t yet know.

In Connecticut, Absentee Ballots have always been permitted for people who say they are unable to go to their assigned polling place on Election Day because of illness, physical disability, military service, and absence from town during all hours of voting (such as a business trip). Other reasons are religious tenets that forbid secular activity on the day of the election, or if you are an election official working at a polling place other than your own during all the hours of voting.

Last year due to the Covid-19 virus, the governor used his emergency powers to have an Absentee Ballot application sent to all voters statewide; you could automatically use the Covid-19 virus as a reason to vote by mail, if you so desired. Some 10,000 Stratford voters used an AB in November 2020, triple the normal number.

This year, Gov. Lamont extended that policy to cover the municipal elections that were held in May 2021, although the political parties had the task of mailing out Absentee Ballot applications if they so desired. It is not yet known how the process will work for any Stratford party primary election Sept. 14th or for the general election Nov. 2.nd.

Q. Can I get a permanent Absentee Ballot sent to me every election?
Dozens of Stratford voters who are permanently disabled have an AB sent to them automatically for every election. The voter must file an absentee ballot application together with a doctor’s certificate stating that they have a permanent disability and are unable to appear in person at their polling place. Contact Town Clerk Susan Pawluk (203-385-4020) to see if you qualify.

As one of the many safeguards in the AB process, the Registrars send such voters a letter every January, asking you to certify you are still an active voter and want to continue to receive a ballot in the mail.

More Questions? Please send them to Registrar Jim Simn; jsimon@townofstratford.com. This is not an official publication of the Town of Stratford. (Vol. 1, No. 5; May 2021)

Flag Day June 14th

I’m pleased to share I will once again be co-hosting a worn American flags collection for Flag Day alongside fellow State Representatives Dave Rutigliano (R-123) and Laura Devlin (R-134) and in cooperation with American Legion Post No. 141.

This flag collection has been an annual tradition for the past five years, and we’re happy to continue it again this year just in time for Flag Day on June 14th.

The drive-by flag collection will be outside Middlebrook Elementary School at 220 Middlebrooks Avenue in Trumbull on Saturday June 12th from 9:00am-11:00am.

Other Drop-off Locations:
Trumbull Town Hall, 5866 Main Street, Trumbull
Trumbull Police Department, 158 Edison Road, Trumbull
Drop-off locations will receive flags from May 10th – June 11th.
Following the collection period, worn American flags will receive proper ceremonial disposal according to the U.S. Flag Code.

For additional information please, contact my office at 1-(800)-842-1423.

VAX Facts: More Money for More Shots

State Representatives Step Up!

State Representative Joe Gresko (D- 121st District and State Representative Phil Young (D-120th District) both applaud the recent announcement that Stratford will receive new federal funds to boost the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in hard-to-reach communities.

Stratford will be one of 27 municipalities and health departments across Connecticut which will receive the new funding, which totals more than $13 million.

“Our goal with the vaccination program is to reach out to every Connecticut resident, particularly those who have historically been underserved when it comes to access to health care, transportation, or other challenges,” Governor Ned Lamont said in a statement. “Everybody deserves the right to access these lifesaving vaccines. We need to do everything we can to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to receive this care.”

“As one of the few accredited health departments in Connecticut, the Stratford Health department continues to go above and beyond for the safety of our residents,” said Rep. Gresko.

“These funds will play a vital role in improving access to the COVID vaccine in our community,” said Rep. Young. “I thank Governor Lamont and applaud his continued commitment to equity in public health.”

Members of the public may call the Stratford Health Department or Stratford Senior Services for help with making a vaccine appointment at 203-385-4090 or 203-385-4050.

Residents can also visit https://portal.ct.gov/Vaccine-Portal to find a vaccine appointment near them.

Gresko Statement on Long Island Sound Blue Plan

Gresko released the following statement following House approval of the Long Island Sound Blue Plan (H.J. 53)

Introduced by: Environment Committee

Co-sponsors of HJ-53: Rep. Joseph P. Gresko, 121st Dist.

“The Long Island Sound Blue Plan is a plan which will provide conservation groups, developers, municipalities, and scientists with a comprehensive map of the all-important Long Island Sound in order to help protect it and its ecosystem for generations to come. Adoption of this plan has been a long time coming after delays in previous sessions, so I’m proud that the resolution adopting this plan was approved in the House last week. I look forward to it soon receiving a vote in the State Senate.”

The purpose of the Long Island Sound Blue Plan is to identify and protect places of traditional use and ecological significance, and to minimize conflicts, now and in the future. This includes preserving a collective vision of Long Island Sound, and facilitating a transparent, science-based decision-making process.”

The plan will facilitate a transparent, science-based decision-making process for the preservation of Long Island Sound’s ecosystems and resources and the protection of traditional uses, while maximizing their compatibility and minimizing conflicts between them now and in the future

The Long Island Sound Blue Plan process included:

(1) gathering data to develop an inventory of ecological resources and human uses and producing corresponding maps that were reviewed by experts and stakeholders for relevance and accuracy and

(2) development of Blue Plan policy to be implemented though existing State permit processes that will minimize conflict with natural resources and traditional uses. (Using maps to develop a participatory process to map current and potential new uses). Long Island Sound Blue Plan provides an inventory of the natural resources and uses of Connecticut’s Long Island Sound and establishes a spatial plan to guide future use of the Sound’s waters and submerged lands.

Statement on Car Thefts in CT

by State Representative Ben McGorty (R 122nd District)

Recently, I polled residents of the 122nd District and asked you how you felt the state should respond to a recent increase in car thefts and vandalism in our communities.

Overall, the vast majority of you supported greater legal consequences for juveniles who commit adult crimes like auto theft, especially those who have repeatedly broken the law.

Local law enforcement has been clear that this is not just another short-term result of the pandemic, but due to long-term juvenile justice reforms that have made it more difficult for police and judges to prevent repeat offenses and protect victims.

As an Assistant Republican Leader in the House, I've been a vocal supporter of proposals put forward by our caucus to fight recent spikes in crime by seeing that our laws are properly enforced.

But some members of the legislature have been more quick to blame car owners for leaving their cars unlocked. They’ve also blamed victims for leaving their key fobs stowed away within range of their car, where thieves can boost the signal to remotely unlock and start the vehicle.

Note: Rep. McGorty did not indicate how many residents responded to his poll. Rep. McGorty’s question he polled with, as well as his poll is attached. Question: What do you think is the best policy for dealing with car thefts by repeat juvenile offenders?

How to Speak on this Topic
Judiciary Committee public hearing
Wednesday, March 31, @ 10 a.m.
Register to Testify Virtually
Deadline to register: Tuesday March 30 @ 3 p.m.

Testify by Email 
Email written testimony to judtestimony@cga.ct.gov and state your name and bills (H.B.
6667 & 6669.) Copy me: Ben.McGorty@housegop.ct.gov

Testify by Telephone 
Call the Phone Registrant Line at (860) 240-5255 to leave your contact information.

 

Child Tax Credit Panel Discussion

May 11, 2021 6:15 PM Eastern Time

by Rep. Phil Young, (D, District 120)

State Representative Phil Young will host a panel discussion about the Child Tax Credit on Tuesday May 11, 2021 at 6:30 PM with State Representative Sean Scanlon, Merril Gay from the CT Early Childhood Alliance, and Liz Fraser from the CT Association for Human Services.

In the beginning of April House Democratic leaders announced a scaled-back, more affordable child tax credit, University of Connecticut economist Fred Carstensen noted that some of the changes would come largely at the expense of the poor. “This is tinged with both race and class,” said Carstensen, who heads the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. “This is saying lower-income people of color, and lower-income people who are white, don’t deserve the full benefit.”

The UConn economist was referring to the $600-per-child credit that Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, proposed to ease a combined state-and-municipal tax system that leans heavily — according to at least one analysis — on low- and middle-income families.

Scanlon, who co-chairs the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, originally envisioned making the credit available to households making as much as $682,000 per year. But after concerns were raised about the cost, he agreed to tighten things up. The credit would begin to phase out for couples earning more than $200,000 per year and would disappear entirely after $210,000.

But there also had been discussions about making the new child tax credit fully refundable. Credits normally are used only to reduce the amount of taxes owed. Once the tax liability reaches zero, in the usual scenario, the credit cannot be converted into a refund.

You can join the panel discussion from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android.
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Meeting ID: 880 2157 3505