Gov. Dannel P. Malloy already told municipalities he will give them the same amount of money this year as he did last year, but the state’s largest municipal lobby worries about whether that includes the Education Cost Sharing grant.
Education funding for municipalities is, again, one of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities top priorities for the upcoming legislative session. It’s also one of the governor’s top priorities, but Malloy has yet to release details of exactly how he plans to hold municipalities harmless at the same time as he increases funding, possibly through competitive grants to the neediest 29 school districts.
“I think one of the challenges the governor has is he’s made a commitment to towns and cities to protect their aid,“ Jim Finley, CCM executive director and CEO, said Tuesday.
But according to Finley that seems contradictory to other statements Malloy’s made about the ECS formula.
“There’s been discussions about repurposing some of the education funding to the needier school districts. We don’t support a rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach,” Finley said.
He said the Education Cost Sharing formula is already underfunded by $800 million and “our message to the governor and the legislature is that you can’t do education reform on the cheap.”
Already about 62 cents of every property tax dollar goes to fund public education, he said.
“A key element of education reform is to reduce the reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 public education. You can only do that if the state spends considerably more money than they‘re spending now,” Finley said.
Simsbury First Selectwoman Mary Glassman, president of CCM‘s board, said there are towns that have 80 percent of their local budget going to fund public education. She said even if you cut back on town services it’s not going to make up for the costs on the education side.
“It’s probably the most important issue facing not only municipal officials, but also the children of Connecticut,” Glassman said.
Over the last decade the town side of local budgets has shrunk in size, “because of the enormous resource demands of public education,” Finley said.
He said CCM is seeking a meeting with Malloy this week to go over some of their proposals including changes to special education funding and the data the state uses to calculate how much municipalities receive through the formula.
“We think the governor’s commitment to hold cities and towns harmless is going to rule the day,” Finley said.
And while he believes the ECS formula will be tinkered with this year, the changes will probably go into effect a year or two from now, Finley said.
In addition to education funding, the non-profit organization is seeking to improve how the state’s agencies communicate with local officials regarding zoning issues such as permits, relief from a court order which requires local clerks to redact certain personal information for certain individuals from its public records, and a broader share of the revenue partnerships established during the last legislative session.