NORWALK, Conn. – The State has increased its aid to Norwalk by 29.7%, State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) said Wednesday.
“We’ll say it’s 30% over two years,” Duff said. “That’s a pretty impressive number, as far as I know. And so, I’m really excited about that, because what that means to property taxpayers and to people in the city businesses and others is that that extra state money means that the mayor and the council and others don’t have to raise property taxes, that that money coming from Hartford allows us to make critical investments, but also at the same time keeping tax bills low.”
Video by Harold F. Cobin at end of story
Norwalk’s slice of the pie over the next two years is $296 million, Duff said at a news conference called to highlight the funding.
“Whether that’s in operating or that’s in some capital investments, or money to some of our great nonprofits that we have, we have a lot to celebrate,” Duff said.
The Alliance District designation that’s been benefitting Norwalk Public Schools was set to expire but has been extended for two more years, bringing in about $5 million, Duff said. It also means the district will get a higher amount of reimbursement for excess special education costs.
Duff also sought to remind folks that the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula has been changed to make property values less of a factor and including Multi-lingual learners and poverty rates. The increased funding to Norwalk is phased in over 10 years.
“I helped lead the way on that when we had our bipartisan budget,” he said.
He ticked off grants that were recently awarded: $3 million for the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, in addition to $5 million that had already been granted; $5 million for the Gallaher Mansion and Cranbury Park; $3 million for the Martin Luther King Corridor Initiative; and $6 million for transit-oriented development around the South Norwalk train station.
Then there’s an additional $50 million authorized for Norwalk High School and an increase in reimbursement rates for school construction to 60% for the next quarter century. Compare that to the 22.5% reimbursement for new school construction Norwalk has been getting, and the 32.5% to renovate schools into a new condition.
This will save local taxpayers $25 million when the South Norwalk neighborhood school is built, he said.
As for nonprofits, funding for the Stepping Stones Museum for Children jumped from $30,000 to $100,000; Youth Business Initiative and the NICE (Norwalk International Cultural Exchange) Festival also got funding.
School district leaders and nonprofit organization heads were among those speaking at the news conference.
“This funding is changing lives, it’s going to supporting our scholars and providing them with the services and resources needed to allow them to achieve their dreams,” Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity, and Inclusion Thomas McBryde Jr. said. “It’s going to creating facilities that represent 21st century skill that they will need to be competitive in the actual world. It’s going towards ensuring that we are being able to provide services of mental health support, so that scholars are receiving the social emotional learning and resources needed to be successful despite some of the challenges they are facing.”
Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Sandra Faioes said that when she was promoted last summer, she reviewed the Board of Education’s facilities studies done in 2014 and 2021.
“I was thinking, ‘Well, we have all the data but where’s all the funding?’ And so then, when we learned that there was a 60% reimbursement, then we started to think about how many possibilities there are and how we can actually make this true,” she said.
Norwalk Early Childhood Coordinator Mary Oster said the city’s family childcare programs will see increased funding this year.
“We’re having a lot of staffing issues, partly because the programs cannot afford to pay their staff more,” Oster said. “Through this funding, they will be able to increase salaries, hopefully stabilize our workforce, and also really do some much needed renovations and improvements to our programs.”
Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum Executive Director Susan Gilgore said “last year, we received funding for great program that allowed children to come to the mansion… free of charge.”
“We had no idea whether children as small as five years old would be interested to come in to the mansion to see our programs. But the program was extremely successful. And we’re hoping to do it again this year with funding from the state,” she said.
Mayor Harry Rilling said, “I get excited every time Senator Duff and the Governor come to Norwalk together, because they always bring money.”
The governor, the legislature and Norwalk’s State delegation “understand that Norwalk is a city of the future,” Rilling said. “Norwalk is a city that they want to invest in, Norwalk is a city that’s on the rise. … This is a city that, as I said, before, it used to be called the hole in the donut, because we’re in between the bedroom communities. But now we are the cream of the donut.”