Connecticut Education Association StatementApril 18, 2017
Voters oppose cost shift plan, raising property taxes
New survey highlights need for state to pay its own bills, not force them onto the backs of local property taxpayers
The push to balance the state budget by shifting costs to cities and towns and raising property taxes doesn't sit well with Connecticut voters. According to a new poll, 67 percent of Connecticut voters are against plans to use local property taxes to balance the state budget. Even more voters, 72 percent, oppose balancing the budget by using local property taxes, instead of state funds, to cover the teacher retirement costs. The survey found that voters do not want the state to shift its financial obligations onto them, and if legislators approve such a plan, voters will make their anger known at the polls next year.
"While we recognize that the state is facing ongoing budget challenges, shifting state funding obligations for essential services onto already-strapped cities and towns is not a viable solution," said CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg. "The public wants honest, fair, sustainable solutions to the state's budget crisis, not increased property taxes. Residents want the state to pay its own bills, not transfer another financial burden onto property taxpayers, and they won't support legislators who don't fight back against this plan."
"Town and city budgets are already strained from having to fund a growing portion of the costs of critical public services, due to more than a decade of minimal increases in state funding for municipalities," said CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong. "Plans for this massive shift in additional state costs onto cities and towns for teacher retirement payments will force both big increases in property taxes and deep cuts in critical municipal services."
The Local Property Tax Responsibility Survey of 600 Connecticut voters was commissioned by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and conducted by Lake Research Partners in April.
- The majority of voters (67 percent) oppose using local property taxes to balance the state budget.
- More than 7 in 10 voters (72 percent) oppose balancing the budget by using local property taxes, as opposed to state funds, to cover the teacher retirement plan.
- More than two-thirds of voters (69 percent) want their legislators to vote against any plan that shifts costs from the state to cities and towns.
- The majority of voters (64 percent) said they would not vote for legislators who support this cost shift plan.
Coalition opposes cost shift plan
CEA and CCM have joined together with the Connecticut Coalition for Public Education (CCPE) to oppose the cost shift plan that would increase property taxes and cut needed town services for Connecticut residents, whose property tax rates are already among the highest in the country.
CCPE is a statewide coalition consisting of seven separate and diverse associations, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Education Association, the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers-CT, and the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association.
"Legislators need to listen to their constituents, who are clearly saying 'no' to shifting the state's responsibility for teacher retirement costs onto their already overburdened cities and towns," said CCPE member and CEA President Sheila Cohen. "Voters know that this ill-conceived plan means higher local property taxes and reduced funding—jeopardizing much-needed resources and public services."
"Putting before Connecticut's citizens a choice of either having their property taxes increased or seeing their school systems diminished is not the comprehensive solution Connecticut needs to balance the state budget," said CCPE member and Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Executive Director Joe Cirasuolo. "Placing a new major unfunded mandate on the backs of local school districts would, therefore, jeopardize the education and as a result the future of Connecticut's children."
Policymakers are considering plans to shift $408 million in state costs for teacher retirement plans onto cities and towns. In West Hartford, that equates to roughly an $8 million increase, 2.8 percent of the town's current budget. The town would be forced to increase property taxes by 1.35 mills, placing an additional strain on residents.
The coalition urged legislators to vote against any plans that place additional financial burdens on municipalities and property owners.
CEA is the state's largest teachers Association, advocating for students, teachers, and public education.
CEA represents 43,000 active and retired educators.