Ansonia’s Board of Education has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to prevent the city from taking $600,000 from the school board’s budget for 2017-2018.
A marshal served city officials with the lawsuit Wednesday (May 16) afternoon, ending weeks of debate among Board of Education members about whether or not to sue the city over a vote by Aldermen in January to cut the school district’s budget in the middle of the year.
Some school and city officials hoped to compromise after a meeting of leaders from both sides Monday evening.
But a Tuesday deadline set by the school board’s lawyer for the city to reverse the $600,000 cut came and went without any deal being reached.
Board of Education President William Nimons referred questions to the board’s lawyer, Frederick Dorsey.
In a prepared statement, Mayor David Cassetti said it was “disheartening that the Board if Education chose litigation over cooperation.”
“Their decision to sue will only work to the detriment of the students, teachers and taxpayers,” Cassetti said. “The elected leaders of the Board of Education that supported this should be embarrassed.”
The school board voted 5-2 at a meeting May 2 to authorize the lawsuit. Tracey DeLibero and John Izzo, two school board members aligned with Cassetti’s administration, voted no.
The school district’s lawyer said Wednesday city left the Board of Education with no choice but to take the city to court.
The city’s schools can’t finish the school year without the $600,000 the Aldermen cut from their budget unless they take drastic action, he said.
“The only thing that they could possibly do to save $600,000 is close school right now and they’re not going to do that, or I don’t think they’re going to do that,” Dorsey said.
School officials view the Aldermen’s January vote to take $600,000 from their budget as illegal, and have repeatedly said that without the money they’ll finish the school year in the red without more funds.
City officials say the cut was OK because the school board received more state aid than anticipated when the 2017-2018 budget was first set.
The Valley Indy left a message Wednesday with a lawyer representing the city in the case.
The lawsuit, which is posted at the bottom of this article, said the Aldermen’s January vote violated the state law and the city charter.
It cites a letter written to Superintendent Carol Merlone from the director of legal affairs at the state Department of Education that said the Aldermen’s vote to reduce the school board’s budget was unlawful.
The city has scheduled a public hearing Thursday (May 17) at 6 p.m. regarding the $600,000 cut and other budget adjustments made by the Aldermen — more than four months after they originally voted on them.
In a letter the mayor asked Aldermen to vote again on the budget adjustments after the hearing in an apparent attempt to cover the city legally.
Dorsey said the school board will ask a judge to approve an order compelling the city from taking the cash.
A hearing in the case could be scheduled in the coming weeks.
“We’ve got to close out the end of the school year and we need money to do that,” Dorsey said.
Board of Alderman President Lorie Vaccaro said school officials were to blame for the impasse.
“We have to ask ourselves why, after repeated attempts to obtain routine budgetary information and to work to cooperatively with the City, the Board of Education would choose to sue the taxpayers of Ansonia rather than cooperate,” Vaccaro said. “What don’t they want us to see?”