Between 2003 and 2009, the Pequot/ Mohegan grants dropped from $3 million a year to $300,000 a year.
Editor’s Note: Figures for Southbury’s revenues used for compari-son to Mansfield were corrected on Dec. 11, 2008. Southbury’s state/federal funds were not included in the original story.
Between September and May – when the University of Connecticut is in full swing – the town of Mansfield goes through a population explosion. From a small, largely suburban/rural town of 12,500 year-round residents, the number of people living in Mansfield grows to about 34,500.
Add employees, visitors and vendors to the mix, and the town’s daytime population jumps to about 40,000 people, according to the town’s Finance Director Jeff Smith.
Smith shared these and other figures with the Town Council this week when he presented a report on the impact of UConn’s student population on Mansfield’s ability to pay for basic services.
The report was not an exercise in UConn-bashing. It was developed to demonstrate that the way the state apportions funding fails to take into account a town’s particular circumstances.
“I think it’s important to start talking about this in Hartford,” Smith said, referring to the Legislature. “When they say, ‘You get enough money,’ the fact is, we don’t.”
In his report Smith puts it this way, “Our problem is very simple – we are trying to provide services to a town with a nighttime population of approximately 25,000 people and a daytime population of 35,000 to 40,000 people with a tax base of a town of approximately 12,500 people.”
Unmasking the problem
Councilman Carl Schaefer commented that Mansfield has always had this problem but until now, it has been “masked” by substantial state payments in lieu of taxes and other state support, such as the Pequot/Mohegan casino revenue funds.
According to Smith, that picture has changed dramatically. Between 2003 and 2009, the Pequot/ Mohegan grants dropped from $3 million a year to $300,000 a year.
In an interview today, Smith explained that a key issue is a caveat in statutes governing funding formulas unchanged since the 1970s, when the state’s tax-exempt Mansfield Training School (a former residential facility for the developmentally disabled) was in operation.
The training school’s population when added to UConn’s resulted in Mansfield’s per capita income being among the lowest in the state, Smith said.
In the interest of fairness, the funding formula was changed to include a calculation that reduces state funds to a town if its tax-exempt population exceeds 40 percent of its total population.
The training school closed decades ago, but part of its campus was converted to a prison; added to UConn’s on-campus population, the town has passed the 40 percent mark.
At the same time, like every other town in the state, Mansfield’s costs for police and emergency services, education and public works (i.e. road maintenance) continue to increase.
Smith compared Mansfield (including on-campus students) with four towns about the same population and found that – using an Equalized Net Grand List (ENGL) based on 2005 figures – Mansfield’s revenues were significantly less, even with state and federal funds:
- Mansfield: population 24,558; ENGL $1.2 million; revenues $33.9 million (property taxes $18.3 million + state/federal funds $15.6 million)
- South Windsor: population 25,985; ENGL $3.3 million; revenues $74.6 million (property taxes $61.2 million + state/federal funds $13.4 million)
- Simsbury: population 23,656; ENGL $3.3 million; revenues $71 million (property taxes $66.3 million + state/federal funds $4.7 million)
- Monroe: population 19,650; ENGL $2.9 million, revenues $54.1 million (property taxes $46.2 million + $7.9 million)
- Southbury: population 19,677; ENGL $3.3 million; revenues $46.5 million (property taxes $44.6 million + state/federal funds $1.86 million)
Also based on these figures, Mansfield’s median income was 141st in the state.
Smith received 2007 figures from the state Office of Policy and Management today and will update his report but said, “It doesn’t change the thrust of my report.”
Comparing crime statistics
At Monday’s meeting, Councilman Bruce Clouette pointed out that UConn has its own police and emergency services. Smith replied that the town provides services to off-campus students and responds to crimes and car accidents that occur throughout the town.
Mayor Betsy Paterson pointed out that Mansfield has 9 State Troopers assigned to cover a town of about 40 square miles, while UConn has about 50 safety and emergency personnel to cover a campus of approximately 10 square miles.
Smith also compared “index crimes” (serious crimes such as burglaries and assault) and motor vehicle accidents in Mansfield with similar sized towns- this time using the town’s population without on-campus students, in order to emphasize the impact of UConn.
- Mansfield: population (without students) 12,500; index crimes 229; accidents 412
- Somers: population 10,877; index crimes 65; accidents 107
- Griswold: population 11,254; index crimes 94; accidents 196
- East Hampton: population 12,194; index crimes 107; accidents 157
- Ellington: population 14,217; index crimes 48; accidents 155
Mansfield’s figures don’t include index crimes that occur on the UConn campus; 360 index crimes were reported by UConn in 2004, which brings the total to 589, according to Smith.
The impact of traffic
While wear and tear on town roads contributed by commuters who cut through town from Routes 195, 32 and 44 is significant, the report notes there also were 20-25 basketball games at UConn’s 10,027-seat Gampel Pavilion in 2004, of which about 20 were sold out. Other varsity teams such as men’s and women’s soccer and ice hockey also draw fans, and Jorgensen’s Center for the Performing Arts (which seats 2,630) add to traffic.
In an effort to encourage less use of cars and increase safety, Mansfield has spent more than $1 million installing bike paths and walkways surrounding the UConn campus, and kicked in $14,000 this year for prepaid bus fares on the Windham Regional Transit District line.
Smith concluded his report by pointing out that the state has invested more than $1 billion in the University of Connecticut, “to build a world-class research and teaching institution. It is counterproductive to the goals of the state, and the state’s investment is eroded, when the host community cannot provide essential services such as education, public safety, public works and recreation which in part, help to recruit prospective students, faculty and administration to the state’s flagship university.”
Posted Dec. 10, 2008
For more information see: http://mansfield.htnp.com/news/state_funds_fail_to_cover_financial_impact_of_uconn.html