NORWALK, Conn. – Cautious optimism was expressed Wednesday night by Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons in regard to the hoped-for school system rebuilding phase in the upcoming school budget.
Lyons was reacting to state Sen. Bob Duff’s explanation of the recently passed state budget and what it means for Norwalk. Tuesday night, Lyons said that indications are that the “a huge chunk” of the state grants coming Norwalk’s way would be unrestricted, which would mean there are no strings attached. “It’s promising, so I’m crossing my fingers,” he said.
Wednesday, Duff (D-Norwalk) told NancyOnNorwalk he had emailed the mayor and Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona on Monday with details.
“Norwalk will receive an additional $1.3 million in the Priority School District funding,” he said in an email. “In addition, there is about $175,000 in additional ECS (Educational Cost Sharing) funding, for a total of about $1.5 million. Norwalk was the only municipality to receive an increase in the Priority School grant. In addition, funding for parochial school bus funding was restored in the budget.”
So the numbers add up, but what about the feared restrictions?
“There are no additional restrictions on the new PS (Priority Schools) or ECS funding than there is now,” he said in the email. “I’ve had that confirmed all along. This is not Alliance District funds.”
Lyons liked the sound of that.
“Alliance funding requires a long application process, can be reduced or denied at the discretion of the Commissioner of Education, and comes with tons of strings attached,” he said Wednesday night in an email. “Priority Schools funding is nearly unrestricted, so if this is the way the funding is coming, this is very good news.”
State funding is crucial, BOE members say. On May 6, the Board of Estimate and Taxation approved $162.27 million for the schools, which is about $2.6 million less than what the board had approved and submitted to the city. The board has been working on how to close the difference, with state funding seen as the key component.
As the state budget process has taken various turns, the amount of funding has changed in each iteration. And, despite the final budget having been passed Monday by the state Legislature, BOE members were still unsure Tuesday of the amount and terms of that funding.
“We’re still looking at these numbers. We’re still not sure what they’re going to give us,” Finance Committee Chairman Mike Barbis said Tuesday.
Lyons said the terms of the grants are key.
“They could award us $1.3 million and we could only be able to spend $300,000,” he said Tuesday. “If it came unrestricted, we could actually spend the money.”