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Norwalk BoE reacts to state budget with ‘sigh of relief’

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton explains the state budget ramifications Tuesday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Conservative budgeting measures have spared the Norwalk Board of Education from major angst due to reductions in state funding, school officials said Tuesday.

It’s a better outcome than was expected, Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo said at the BoE meeting, crediting Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton for “tireless” efforts in his “defensive position,” assuming a 20 percent cut was coming down the pike.

“We can breathe a sigh of relief certainly because we really were on pins and needles for a long period of time,” Hamilton said, of the recently approved state budget.

Specifics are still not in; it’s possible that NPS will have to cut its family resource center at Naramake Elementary School, Hamilton said. The Board unanimously voted to request a $435,489 special appropriation from the city budget, an amount equal to the surplus in its 2016-17 budget.

Mayor Harry Rilling and the Board of Estimate and Taxation recently refused to allow the Board to keep its surplus, citing the uncertain state budget situation. Hamilton said Tuesday that Rilling is supportive of the special appropriation request.

Funding for a pilot snow removal program at Brien McMahon High School is coming from those funds, he said.

Hamilton outlined the specifics of the state budget, explaining that he is assuming that Norwalk’s Priority School District funding will be cut 11.8 percent because that is the cut to total state spending. That 11.8 percent cut translates to $461,000, he said.

“Because we employed those conservative budgeting practices, because we moved security expenses out of PSD grant and into the local budget for the 17-18 year, we don’t need to resort to making mid-year budget cuts to our local budget,” Hamilton said, cautioning that the cut will have implications in the future.

Again, 11.8 percent is an estimate; if the assumption is off, the issue will have to be revisited, he said.

A “wrinkle” is being solved effortlessly – under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s executive order, the city received 25 percent of NPS’s Alliance District funding, but rather than the Board having to put in a special appropriation request, the city is simply reclassifying the revenue and shifting it to the school district, Hamilton said.

Alliance funding is coming in higher than budgeted for, Hamilton said.

The Special Education excess cost grant is uncertain; although the total pot statewide is 5.2 percent larger, local funding depends on how many claims are submitted from all communities, Hamilton explained.

The state budget specifies a reduction in school resource centers statewide, with any community that has more than one required to close its excess centers by Dec. 31, he said.

However, many school districts pulled the plug on their school resource centers as the state budget battle dragged on, so Norwalk may dodge that bullet, he explained.

“We are assuming more likely than not that one our school resource centers will have to close,” Hamilton said. “That is probably the only negative news out of the state budget…. on balance we are quite happy of where we are ending up.”

4 comments

Debora Goldstein November 15, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Why do we have to spend “new” money on snow removal. Why can’t we reallocate the funds that were supporting the previously inefficient plowing already being done?

Mike Lyons November 15, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Deb, the BoE has no control over spending on snow removal by the DPW, which is under the control of the City.

Townie November 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

Why is the BOE taking over the responsibility and expense of snow plowing at Brien McMahon? Why relieve them of something they have been doing forever and something that they are very capable? If you do, you will be saving them the overtime expense. Do you plan to have them fund this pilot program with the savings?

Debora Goldstein November 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Mike,

All due respect, but that answer was non-responsive. Money is being spent by three entities (reportedly Parks, DPW and the NPS) for snow removal around the schools. Instead of re-allocating that money to one entity to do the job correctly, we are taking “surplus” BOE funds and contracting it out–in effect paying a FOURTH entity to do snow removal around Brien McMahon.

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