Barbis: Norwalk Republican caucus’ claim of ‘fully funding’ BOE is false

NORWALK, Conn. – There’s an assertion going around town: the city of Norwalk fully funded the Board of Education. That assertion is false, BOE Finance Committee Chairman Mike Barbis said.

“The folks that are saying they voted to fully fund the BOE’s request are totally lying,” Barbis said in an email. 

Members of the Republican caucus who are running for election are the people Barbis was talking about. Democrat Bruce Kimmel, running as an at-large Common Council candidate endorsed by the Republicans, is one of them.

Kimmel addressed the topic on Facebook.

“Heard someone suggest that the City did not fully fund the BOE’s current operating budget,” he wrote. “Have no idea where they got that, but I think they forgot one of the three factors that went into crafting that budget: the savings uncovered by the BOE itself during the several months of budget discussion. That, along with state aid and of course local funds, enabled the Board to fund its request and restore the major programs cut the previous year due to the $4 million shortfall in the insurance and special education accounts. On the evening last winter when the Council adopted the budget cap, we assumed a certain level of state aid would be available; and we knew that the Board had already generated savings in several major accounts. It was a constructive, collaborative effort.”

Norwalk Common Council  024-20130226
Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia addresses the audience at the Feb. 26 council meeting, where the budget cap was set.

The BOE’s original budget request, submitted by interim Superintendent Tony Daddona in January, was $164,924,783 million. On Feb. 26, the Common Council approved $162,271,862 in funding as part of its budget cap.

The final budget total is$164,306,408, BOE Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl said. But that includes funds that weren’t released on Oct. 16, the date of his email relaying the information.

In June the BOE and Board of Estimate and Taxation approved surplus funds in the amount of $1,393,732 to be placed into a non-lapsing account for the Board of Education for use in FY 13/14, he said. “Once these funds are fully released the board’s amended budget would increase to $163,665,594,” he said in an email. “Additionally we have items that are encumbered as they were FY 12/13 expenses that will be paid in FY 13/14. Once these items are paid and the encumbrance is released the budget will increase to $164,306,408. While we will have $164.3 million available to us in FY 13/14 due to surplus funds and restricted reserve encumbrance funds, the base budget for FY 13/14 is $162.3 million.”

Barbis explained this spring’s budget hoop-jumping a bit more colorfully in the following email:

“There was a ton of drama and there was a multimillion dollar gap. The only reason we made it through without serious cuts was:

“1. We ran a surplus in Fiscal Year (FY) 12/13 allowing for those surplus funds to be contributed to FY 13/14.  One of the biggest positive surprises was health insurance – we self-insure and claims came in lower than expected … I bring this up as it could have gone completely the other way ….

“2. The State of Connecticut came thru with more money than we expected – although that only happened at the last minute – if they had not come through, we would have cut positions, not added positions

“3. We did trim some of our initial budget – especially staffing in Special Ed – despite the reports by Cambridge and others criticizing this as an area in need of improvement.

“4. We won the grievance against the NFEP (Norwalk Federation of Employment Personnel) union (although lost the NASA (Norwalk Association of School Administrators) grievance)”

The question came up in a round-about way at last week’s Norwalk League of Women Voters mayoral debate, when both incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia and Democratic challenger Harry Rilling were asked to define what “fully funding” the BOE means.

“My definition is, if they receive an increase over their previous year based on what the taxpayers and Board of Estimate and Common Council and their cap set that’s funding the Board of Ed,” Moccia said. “We give 60 percent of our budget, counting capital costs, to the Board of Ed.”

NancyOnNorwalk has not heard Moccia say the Board of Ed was fully funded this year.

Rilling said education funding is a priority. You can watch them both in the video above.

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion had a more long-range opinion on the “fully funded” issue.

“I think we’ve been through some difficult times, but over the last eight years when the current mayor has been in place, the difference between what the Board of Ed has requested and what the city has finally allocated is $26.5 million,” he said. “That averages out to a reduction of $3.3 million a year. That has really been an impact.”


16 responses to “Barbis: Norwalk Republican caucus’ claim of ‘fully funding’ BOE is false”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    This is why kids in Norwalk need a good education, so they don’t grow up and screw up the math like these people do

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Norwalk Lifer

    Interestingly enough, Jack Chiaramonte, who was also one of those humble and well skilled heads of the BOE had to defend this shortfall:


    So, it wasn’t 4 million, it was 2.6 million, and his defense? when a handicapped kid moves into our town, the BOE is mandated to find funding to educate. Compared it to snow removal.

    Really, when are you people going to wake up????

    Norwalk Lifer

  3. Don’t Panic

    Nobody is talking about the added costs from the reaction to Sandy Hook. Those costs weren’t part of the budget, but you can bet they will be going forward.

  4. Bruce Kimmel

    Nancy, very good story. I am disappointed that Barbis accuses those who disagree with him as lying, but I am not surprised since there has been a lot of name-calling directed at me these last few months.
    The key to any budget, as I mentioned in the story, is what programs were requested, which one were funded, and which ones were not funded. A fully funded budget is one that enables all of the important requests to be funded, which was the case with the current budget.
    Mr. Barbis did not name a single official request that was not funded. And while I agree with him regarding the need for more funding of special education, until the requests are made by the board, we will not consider that issue.
    When we were deciding on a budget cap for the city last winter, members of the Republican caucus, me included, were in close contact with BOE and city finance officials. We knew that the board had already generated a substantial amount of internal savings by scrubbing accounts, and we had a good idea what the level of state aid would be, so we approved a cap that we felt would ultimately fund all of the major programs. And it turned out that is what happened.
    After we adopted the spending limit, former BOE finance official, Elio Longo, publicly recognized that the board was close funding all of its major requests, mentioning that a few hundred thousand more dollars would be needed. Interestingly, at the same time, Barbis was publicly announcing that the board was more than two million short. We chose to work with, and believe, Longo.

  5. Lisa Thomson

    I said this on another story thread, in my op-eds over the years and in my comments on this and other sites. Statements about fully or not fully funding budgets is like asking the question how long is a piece of string? Instead, all stakeholders – educators, taxpayers, parents, BOE members and politicians needs to understand or explain where the majority of increased costs are coming from – insurance premiums.

    It’s not about respect – it’s about math. Regardless of which side of the argument you sit on – in a profession with lots of employees and increasing healthcare premiums, we have three choices based upon the way education is funded in the state of CT:

    1) Raise taxes at a rate disproportionate to the value of homes
    2) Reduce the number of employees
    3) Negotiate 1960s work rules to reflect 21st century technology capabilities and global standards

    Personally, I’d vote for option 3. If educational and union leaders here in Norwalk (and nationwide for that matter) would redefine the classroom as we know it, we might better balance adult compensation and individualized student learning at cost levels taxpayers would support with improved academic achievement for our students. Two American, intellectual giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have advocated this for years.

    But it will take politicians (not be holding to anyone) citizens and union leaders with the political courage to talk about the ‘elephant in the room.’

  6. M Allen

    I’m the one who put forth question asking the candidates to provide their definition of what “fully fund” the budget means. Because the words get tossed around and are used as a coded mess. “Fully fund” does not mean whatever the unions asks for. It does not mean whatever the BOE asks for. It means whatever all sides ultimately arrive at and the city decides to budget for. When is this union going to realize it doesn’t set the policy, it doesn’t set the budget and that the elected officials represent both the students attending our schools as well as the taxpayers of this city? The union represents the employees. The people we hire to carry out our instructions. Mo money, mo money. Or you hate children. This attitude has to stop.
    It will be interesting after Tuesday what “fully fund” means to the people that end up with the job for the next term. Hopefully for taxpayers, it will mean holding the line. Which if you don’t know is code word just like “fully fund”. It’s code word for hold the damn line on tax increases and find a way of getting the job done without your wishes, hopes and dreams being the baseline budget. Budgets need to be flexible based on the economic times. Better times, more money. Worse times and you better use those educations to find a way of getting the job done with less. I’m pretty sure we can “fully fund” the kid side of the budget. The question is can we fully fund the employee side to the point they feel respected. I doubt it, under almost any circumstance. By the way, if it is the healthcare side that is jumping the number every year: move to a defined contribution healthcare plan. You know what that is called I’m sure.

  7. Lisa Thomson

    M Allen
    So you were the one who asked the fully funded question at the LWV debate? I wish I could have met you 🙂

  8. M Allen

    It had to be asked because its way to easy to just say fully funded. These are budgets not wish lists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for treating our educators with an unending level of respect. Because respect is free, so we should find a way of being more respectful. But respect is a two-way street. Budgets don’t just get magically fully funded. There is give and take, and agreement and disagreement and both sides need to find a way of getting the job done with finite resources. Ultimately a call has to be made. Not just the words “fully fund”. Fully funded is whatever the elected officials of this city, duly sworn to represent the voters and taxpayers of this city, say it is.

  9. Paul Thomas

    The only one who is lying is Barbis. How petty do you have to be? The Board requested X dollars, and once everything was said and done, they got X dollars. To try and say otherwise is a lie. The BET rightfully took the amount they were given down. Why would they give them more money that they asked for? Even if we should give more money to special ed, if it isn’t in the budget, it isn’t getting funded.

  10. Better Norwalk

    Funny how this comes out right before election. call it spin call it BS, it’s shameful!
    Doesn’t matter, the poles show Moccia way ahead.
    Desperate times calls for desperate claims and attempting to gain votes by BS.
    Petty is putting it really lightly!

    Please make sure you are not influenced by distortion!
    Vote Row A: For Mayor Moccia and let’s keep moving Norwalk FORWARD!

  11. Mark Barnes

    Pitiful. This is what creates mistrust and puts the schools in jeopardy. When an elected official tries to use their official role to put down those that actually worked to a solution because they are from another party. Shame. The budget approved by the BOE was met, fully. There is no other statement to be made. 12 people voted for that budget and they should be proud. Pena, Watts, Igneri, not so much. Spin doesn’t work

  12. @Better Norwalk

    I reached out to Mike Barbis more than a month ago when I first heard someone say the Board of Education had been fully funded. The story kept getting pushed back for more timely items – as you know, we are short staffed. It’s one of those things I wanted to get done. Assertions made by politicians need to be examined.

  13. Piberman

    How fitting Nancy chose to end this confusing story of school budget lies and malfeasance with Bruce Mellion’s $26.5 million figure – about $2,000 per taxpayer. Now we understand the NFT’s efforts to put Democrats in office. And their harsh comments about BOE members in their Vanguard. They’re doing it for the children ! Certainly not to avoid arbitration again. Or boost salaries. This has to be the best story of the campaign. Even the tooth fairy is enjoying the $26.5 million shortfall in Norwalk. Maybe it will go national. Norwalk short changes education.

  14. Mr. Ludlow

    Don’t tell Mr. Berman, but the story is about what happened with the 2013-2014 budget when the teachers took a “zero” as a result of arbitration. But that’s really like not eating the salad so that you can save room for dessert. ‘Cause next year, there’s no way the taxpayers can fully fund the school department’s budget due to a big raise for the teachers (the result of the same “unprecedented” arbitration).

  15. M Allen

    Has next year’s budget been set yet? See, “fully funded” means providing the dollars to fund the set budget. Not just coming up with however many dollars are asked for.
    Why does government seem so inept at the concept of a budget? Like the taxpayer is some never-ending pot of money to be accessed at a whim. If you only have $X and need to choose between the mortgage, food and cable TV, it may be you can’t have the cable TV. Or it may be you need to eat less. But the mortgage has to be paid because it’s contractual. Just remember union: if the raises cause layoffs, those few were martyrs to the greater good of raises for the rest. Right?

  16. lael

    The BOE currently receives 62% of all the dollars Norwalk gets in tax revenue. Basically for every three dollars you give to City Hall, BOE gets two! The entire rest of the city has to function on that measly 1/3 and Moccia and the Council did an outstanding job of supporting BOE(–who’s funding went up 30% over the last 10 years according to the City’s budget) and running the rest of the city. But I say enough is enough! How much MORE does BOE expect to get out of us? I’m sick of their constant complaining they aren’t “fully funded.” Make do like the rest of us or cut some expenses. Our teachers are the 5th highest paid in the state and we are waaaaay to top heavy with administrators. No matter what they get it’s never enough–and for all the money we spend, our kids are graduating and still can’t read!

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