By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – Don’t expect the cavalry to come in and rescue Norwalk Public Schools: The idea that the state of Connecticut will revise its Educational Cost Sharing formula is out the window, given the deficit the state is facing, Mayor Richard Moccia said.
Moccia, who campaigned with others to get the legislature to revamp the formula and give Norwalk schools a larger portion of the pie, dropped the bombshell at the end of Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.
“We all know the state of Connecticut deficit now up to 400 million plus,” he said. “We’ve already had decisions on how that’s going to affect us. I think it’s safe to say despite all our efforts there is very little chance that we will get an increase in ECS funding this year. We’ll be lucky to keep what we have. My understanding is that for fiscal year 13-14 that the state could be looking in excess of a million-dollar deficit. The governor may not agree with that number yet. But for future budget planning, don’t count on ECS.”
BOE Chairman Mike Lyons replied, “That’s unfortunate but good advice.”
The state legislature formed an Educational Cost Sharing task force last year to review the formula. Norwalk politicians and residents testified to the task force, arguing that the formula’s reliance on property values unfairly deprives Norwalk of funds.
For proof of the city’s need, they point to the high percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. “(Their parents) don’t own their own homes and the fact is that many people in Norwalk, if they had to buy their house today, could not afford it,” said former BOE Chairman Jack Chiaramonte in July. “Norwalk is a very blue-collar town.”
Lyons said the mayor’s announcement was no surprise. “I’m not shocked by it, with the state in free-fall, economically and financially,” he said.
Saying he wasn’t worried about what the governor thinks, Lyons let fly with his opinion.
“Malloy made his deal with the devil last year when he let all the state union people get a four-year, no-layoff clause,” the Republican said. “He rolled the dice on the economy, because if the economy didn’t recover that was going to be disastrous for the state. The economy didn’t recover – which, if he had asked me, I could have told him.
“Since he has exempted all the state union people who got him elected from being subject to layoff, there’s only two options left. One is big tax increases, which he will do even though he says he won’t, and the other is cutting aid to the cities, which he will do even though he says he won’t. That’s what happens when you make a deal like he did with state unions. Everybody else is going to be on the chopping block and his buddies in the union are going to be exempt. So we’re going to pay for that.”
Republican BOE member Sue Haynie said the lack of funding is too bad, but she wasn’t surprised either.
“I think it’s really difficult with the ECS because they have to take it from someone else to give to us,” she said. “I always figured that was the problem. When you compound that with the state’s in the hole, I just don’t think they have any flexibility.”
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