I would like to follow-up on Alderman Lorie Vaccaro’s “false fact” column recently submitted to the Valley Independent Sentinel. There are certainly no shortage of “false facts” floating around Ansonia recently, and none more outrageous than the suggestion that the Cassetti administration has been anything other than supportive of public education.
The actual facts show that the Cassetti administration has been a very strong proponent of Ansonia schools.
The Mayor and Board of Aldermen have done its share to maximize school funding over the past three years. The Mayor’s administration has increased funding by 3.2 million, as illustrated in the attached chart. That’s an average of 3.7 percent increase in education funding over the past three years, up dramatically from an average of 1.8 percent over the eight years prior.
Factoring in the state funding for excess special education past on to the Board of Education, this number increases to over $4 million in additional funds over the past three years, as Alderman Vaccaro stated in his column.
Yet that does not include the funding of non-educational costs and support of capital projects. This is the full breakdown:
- 3.2 percent increase to the schools in the 2014-2015 budget ($897,000 in additional funding);
- 4.8 percent increase to the schools in the 2015-2016 budget ($1,409,446 in additional funding);
- 3.1 percent increase to the schools in the 2016-2017 budget ($953,830 in additional funding);
- Regularly paying $600,000 per year (2014-2016) to cover non-educational expenses, such as insurance costs;
- Passing on over $800,000 in state funds to cover excess special education costs (money that otherwise is retained by the city in its general fund);
- Funding of the underfunded city pension (which includes primarily education employees) for the first time in a decade;
- Contributing city money for an $87,000 match for engineering to help the school board obtain portable classrooms to keep down special education;
- Allocating $125,000 in city money towards a $1,250,000 grant that will pay for sidewalks leading to Ansonia High School; and
- Bonding taxpayer funds to support over $1 million in capital improvements for the Board of Education.
As this budget season continues, it is important to know that the Mayor’s team has always supported Ansonia schools and has undeniably increased funding levels to the Board of Education. The question, as always, is how much of an increase in funding can taxpayers afford this year.
When the Mayor’s political opponents suggest that not enough is being done to fund education, think about the facts cited above. Ask the critics whether they have an alternative proposal to fund education at an even higher level of funding that does not involve raising taxes.
I strongly support our schools, but also realize that budgets need to work in the best interest of all taxpayers. Otherwise, there won’t be any taxpayers left in our city to fund education at all.
The writer represents the Seventh Ward on Ansonia’s Board of Aldermen.
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