Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s revised budget zeroes out funding for 28 school districts in Fairfield County and along the shoreline, and reduces funding for another 111 other towns throughout the state.
The reductions total $44 million. This means school boards all over Connecticut are scrambling to fill holes in their local budgets ranging from about $85,000 up to $3.6 million.
Fairfield took the largest hit, losing $3.59 million, followed by Greenwich ($3.14 million), and West Hartford ($3.12 million).
Ridgefield, Darien, Westport, Wilton, Madison, Waterford, and New Canaan each lost between $2 million and $1.4 million.
Funding was increased for 29 of the state’s lowest performing districts and stayed the same for Norwalk.
Local elected officials from several small towns impacted by the proposal were at the state Capitol Wednesday for a meeting with the Council of Small Towns.
Roxbury First Selectwoman Barbara Henry said with the swipe of a pen she lost $158,000 in education funds.
Washington First Selectman Mark Lyon said he lost $221,000, which is two-tenths of a mill.
While it may not sound like a lot, Lyon said blue-collar retired individuals comprise half the population in the town and they have fixed incomes and are living off their pension and Social Security.
“This is a big deal for them,” Lyon said.
Lyme First Selectman Ralph Eno said the cut, if the legislature approves, is going to hurt. He said it won’t have an enormous impact on their mill rate, but it hurts.
He said if the state isn’t going to fund education then it should eliminate some of the unfunded mandates it places on towns.
Lon Seidman, chairman of the Essex Board of Education, said the $365,000 his school district will lose is not insignificant.
He said the state should be supporting school districts, like his, that are attempting to regionalize.
“Quite frankly, I don’t feel as compelled to take their never-ending list of mandates seriously if the funding is yanked out from under us,” Seidman said.
He said the district has to pay non-administrative staff to spend at least 40 hours a year on unfunded professional development requirements from the state. It’s worse at the administrative level, where he said he’s been unable to quantify how much time school administrators spend complying with state mandates. In this example, Seidman said, professional development has become a compliance activity versus improvement for the schools.
Wolcott First Selectman Thomas Dunn said he wasn’t zeroed out like some of his colleagues but his town lost $521,000 in education funding under Malloy’s budget.
“We’re going to have to layoff employees or not take care of some of our infrastructure to balance our budget,” Dunn said.
Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said he doesn’t know if ending state support of education in 28 communities is legal.
“He’s asking for a lot of lawsuits,” Frantz said, adding that Malloy was basically poking these towns in the eyes with a hot poker.
“It’s an abomination,” Frantz said.
But a spokesman for Malloy said it’s a just “a new economic reality.”
“With fewer resources at hand, the governor believes that education funding needs to be equitable,” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia, said. “We need to provide support to schools and districts that need it most. Taking the same percentage of cuts in towns with wildly varying mill rates and tax bases just doesn’t make sense in our new economic reality.”