NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk is getting a 3% increase in state funding for 2019-20, according to the Connecticut Mirror. Stamford is getting a 7% increase.
Board of Education member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell, in a Facebook post, attributed the funding changes to changes made last year in the Educational Cost Sharing formula. That Facebook post quickly became contentious, as other BoE members and unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton attacked her positive view of the changes.
“This data says we are in fact doing well in comparison to other municipalities across the state,” Meyer-Mitchell wrote.
“Nope. Sorry Barbara,” Brinton replied.
The Mirror interactive graphic shows:
- Bridgeport, $214,007,756; +$2,904,359; 1% increase
- Darien, $438,915; +$15,116; 4% increase
- Fairfield, $3,257,688; +$11,387; 0% difference
- Greenwich, $952,153, $101,199+, 12% increase
- New Canaan, $463,116; +$15,423; 3% increase
- Norwalk, $16,620,783; $543,094; 3% increase
- Stamford, $17,709,347; $1,134,313; 7% increase
- Westport, $959,905; $18,224; 2% increase
- Wilton, $566,510; -$282; 0% difference
The Connecticut School Finance Project shows that Norwalk is getting an additional $495,667 in school funding from the state this year, via the reworked Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. Stamford is getting $1,079,694 more.
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) did not reply to a Wednesday email from NancyOnNorwalk, asking for perspective on the funding statistics.
State Rep. Chris Perone (D-137), in Meyer-Mitchell’s Facebook thread, explained:
“One reason for the difference in grant amounts is likely relatively simple. Stamford and New Haven school districts have more kids.
“2019 total district enrollment:
“New Haven – 21,264
“Stamford – 16,053
“Danbury – 11,531
“Norwalk – 11,501
“As for why there are differences among the grant amounts that each town receives, despite the new ECS funding formula that passed last year and went into effect in 2019, CT still has 10 different education funding formulas. Additionally, districts have their own grand lists, population needs and proportions of higher-need students. These inputs also impact how much school districts receive.”
Meyer-Mitchell responded to Brinton’s curt comment by writing, “I know you are busy campaigning, but I would hope a mayoral candidate might be slightly more issue oriented and informational, not to mention less rude.”
“’Nope. Sorry Barbara’ is rude? Just because I disagree?” Brinton replied. “I just think, … $543,000 extra in what amounts to a $198,000,000 budget next year, with nearly 60% free and reduced lunch is nothing to brag about. I believe it equates to 0.00274242% – it’s important to put numbers into some context.”
“.27%,” Meyer-Mitchell replied. “What I am suggesting is that if you comment on something a constituent says, you may want to be more thorough and diplomatic in your presentation of your opinion. I know from reading your ECS testimony that you also advocated for a 30/70 formula, so we were aligned on that. Frankly, I was nervous that we would see more cuts at the municipal level, so I am grateful.”
“Norwalk is one of the cities that suffers because of our inflated property values because of our location and surrounding wealthy towns. We want our fair share. This has been a fight for too many years and if this change doesn’t happen now, you can bet it’s never going to happen.”
Mayor Harry Rilling did not testify. He traveled to Hartford but had to leave before he got the chance, he said at the time.
BoE member Bryan Meek, Brinton’s campaign treasurer, in the Facebook thread accused Meyer-Mitchell of “always campaigning… mostly for folks who are going to throw you on the political scrap heap once you are done being useful.”
“Just to put the extra $500k and change in perspective….. The City of Norwalk generates about the same amount in tax revenues every 8 hours for Hartford,” Meek wrote. “Every 8 hours, 3x a day, for 365 days. For another comparison, this amount of money funds school operations for about 1/2 of one day out of 182. Let’s celebrate!”
The ECS formula was revamped as part of the 2017-19 State budget. It now features a Base Aid Ratio, which uses two elements to calculate a town’s ability to fund its public schools: a property wealth factor and an income wealth factor, according to the Connecticut School Finance Project. The property wealth factor counts for 70% in determining a town’s Base Aid Ratio, while the income wealth factor counts for 30%.
“There is plenty we can debate about ECS,” Perone wrote in the Facebook convo. “The plain truth is that this is a brand new funding formula that is going to be phased in over 10 years. We should all be paying attention to how the formula effects Norwalk as it rolls out. Myself along with the rest of the Norwalk delegation are committed to making sure that Norwalk receives its fair share under this new formula.”
“You are kidding us, right? We are not even close,” BoE Chairman Mike Barbis wrote. “And trying to pretend that these are increases are meaningful — when they don’t even beat the rate of inflation — is disingenuous. You are insulting us all”
“Actually, as I commented at the time, inflation is 1.9%, and our increases over the next couple years are ~5%. When Norwalk mobilized to support a change to the ECS formula I don’t recall your writing testimony, but the ask was a 70/30 formula with attention to poverty and ELL,” Meyer-Mitchell replied. “What alternate formula do you propose that we as a community can get behind and advocate for? Consistently saying we need more but not saying how we get there isn’t very productive.”
“Keep on spinning Barbara,” Barbis replied.
“I’m not spinning,” she wrote. “I’m asking for a concrete suggestion of how we could fairly improve our portion. What alternate formula would you propose.”
“here’s the basic formula,” Meek wrote. “Stop carrying water for Duff and others who have shafted Norwalk. The facts are more than clear. Duff has sold this city out for his shiny title and your support of his shenanigans doesn’t help the city. More money is subsidized to the New Britain bus riders than our own children. It’s shameful that you continue to support this.”