Board of Education Commissioner Scarlata’s recent column is both inaccurate and frankly disrespectful to Ansonia residents who struggle to pay the taxes that support our schools.
Yes, the State of Connecticut does provide financial support to our school district, though the funding provided has been short by millions each year.
Ansonia taxpayers, however, are obligated to fund over $16 million per year as a local share, an amount that climbed a record 3.7 percent of their total budget (approximately $3.2 million) over the past 3 years.
Both the City of Ansonia and Board of Education should be proud to see local funding increase at these levels, particularly because each increase establishes a new bench mark for funding in the following year. You see, the state’s “minimum budget requirement” law prevents a city from funding schools any less than the previous year’s local share.
Each increase moves the chains on the field, in Charger-speak.
This is the important point: even if all state funding evaporates, the city and its taxpayers would still be obligated to fund no less than the budgeted local share. With limited exceptions (like declining enrollment) Board of Education budget increases are permanent.
That’s where Commissioner Scarlata goes very wrong. His column concludes that the city is merely passing on state funding, and therefore the sacrifices of the city (i.e. the taxpayers) are minimal. That’s inaccurate.
First off, the state funding referenced by Scarlata’s chart is specifically for special education. The city has the right to retain these funds in its reserve until they are specifically needed to offset an overage in the Board of Education’s special education budget. When this happens, the city pays the overage but the payment does not count towards the city’s local share.
So if the city was merely passing on the special education funding each year, the Board of Education would not be benefiting from an increased budget year-to-year. They would be one-time payments. The chains would not be moved up the field!
The city has done much better for the Board of Education. Each year’s budget increase is a true budget increase – raising the threshold for the next year. And yes this is a true sacrifice for the city given that, if all else fails, it will be the taxpayers on the line for an amount now totaling over $16 million per year.
And the one time the Board of Education did run an overage in its special education budget (this year) the city passed over the funds as a one-time payment…in addition to its 2016-2017 budget allocation of over $953,000!
It’s high time that the Board of Education and City of Ansonia quit finger pointing and accept that they are on the same team when it comes to supporting our children, teachers and schools.
Let’s accept that taxpayers are funding education to their financial limit. Let’s look for original, innovative ideas so that we can do even better for education in Ansonia without sticking residents and businesses with higher and higher tax bills.
The writer represents the Seventh Ward on Ansonia’s Board of Aldermen.
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