NORWALK, Conn. – State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) predicts a positive decision regarding Norwalk from the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) task force, which is expected to be release its report soon – but there’s a catch.
“It’s going to be advantageous for Norwalk, but the issue now is trying to find the resources,” Duff said. “In a difficult budget year, we have another deficit.”
The task force was formed in August 2011 to review the ECS formula’s effectiveness and make recommendations for change. Local leaders say the formula is unfair to Norwalk, where a high percentage of students are on the free- or reduced-lunch program, and have campaigned for a modification.
“We passed that legislation to create that task force a couple years ago because of the fact we knew Norwalk should get more money,” Duff said. “We have a governor who understood and cared, and supported us on that. We appreciated that because we’ve had governors in the past who say one thing but didn’t back us up when we talked about that issue.”
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton) is among those who have been fighting to change the formula.
“Norwalk’s allocation remains too heavily based on its grand list, and I continue to feel strongly that the current formula grossly overestimates Norwalk’s ‘ability to pay’ for education,” she said in an email.
She’s not as optimistic as Duff about the task force’s findings
“I don’t think it’s possible to say what we expect in terms of an outcome for Norwalk,” she said. “The report, according to an announcement made to the press by one of the ECS task force chairs, was supposed to have been made public during the first week of January. That still has not happened, so I don’t know what it says regarding Norwalk.
“I am reluctant to say that there will be additional funds,” she said, “because we are already facing a $2.2 billion deficit for the next biennial budget, and, because revenues for the current year continue to fall short of projections every day, that deficit may well be understated.”
Lavielle has introduced HB 5281, which she said is similar to the amendment to the state budget bill she introduced last year. The bill amends the definition of equalized net grand list for purposes of calculating the education cost sharing grant.
Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) pressured Duff last week on the issue, saying a decision needs to be made and the details worked out later as the council must set Norwalk’s preliminary budget cap by Feb. 28.
“The later the budget cycle goes the more difficult it is for us to make any final decisions on the final budget,” he said. “To the extent that there’s going to be massive amounts of pain – I totally expect there will be – you guys just need to do it early. You need to set it and, if you could resource some stuff later on, that’s fine.”