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Renewed panel to help towns be more efficient

By Johanna Somers

Publication: theday.com

Published February 28. 2013 1:00PM   Updated March 01. 2013 11:47AM

House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said Thursday that a bipartisan commission would help towns regionalize and address mandates, education costs and municipal taxes.

Sharkey said the panel would be a recreation of the former Municipal Opportunities & Regional Efficiencies Commission, which in 2010 created laws to encourage regional cooperation.

“Budget challenges of today must be met with finding new ways to do more with less tomorrow,” Sharkey said.

State Rep. Tim Larson, D-East Hartford, will lead the commission. Larson is a former East Hartford mayor who brings important perspective, Sharkey said.

“We need to help municipalities explore broad-based solutions for making government operate more efficiently,” Larson said.

No town wants to risk losing the opportunity to provide services in its own way, Sharkey said. But taxpayers are telling them they can’t keep being inefficient, he said.

Towns and cities were pretty much held harmless over the past two years despite the state having the highest deficit per capital and one of the worst economic crises, he said.

“We have to look at these efficiencies,” he said.

For example, a school transportation grant provides incentives for schools to regionalize bus transportation. But no towns have taken advantage of this, in part because towns don’t all operate on the same school calendar.

With more regionalization, the state should be able to obtain more federal grants, Sharkey said.

j.somers@theday.com

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