Schools Pay for Costly State Budget Mistakes

December 30, 2016

Sen. Boucher Calls Last Minute Cuts in Aid a Bad Ending to a Disappointing December

State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) said December has been a month of bad surprises from the Malloy administration, adding that the latest notification of cuts to education funding takes the cake by coming only one day before the money was supposed to be sent to towns.

“The holidays are supposed to be a time of giving and promise,” Sen. Boucher said. “Instead, these drastic cuts to education funding in the middle of the fiscal year is another rotten apple from Governor Malloy’s bag of bad gifts. Last minute cuts to schools and $30 million freeze in money promised to municipalities continues a sadly predictable trend. The Governor is a Scrooge to our communities and children while playing Father Christmas to state employee unions. Happy New Year indeed!”

In addition to ESC funds previously withheld from the state, funding towns in the 26th Senate District will not receive in January and April 2017 includes:

  • Bethel- $119,449 (1.5%)
  • New Canaan- $339,255 (50%)
  • Redding- $83,699 (31.7%)
  • Ridgefield- $234100 (29.1%)
  • Weston- $118,049 (30.9%)
  • Westport- $443,947 (48.8%)
  • Wilton- $202,441 (30.4%)

Making matters worse, Sen. Boucher said the administration adds insult to injury when Office of Policy and Management (OPM) Secretary Ben Barns suggests the cuts will have “minor adverse consequences” for municipalities. Barnes then singled out Danbury schools in saying the cuts to its funding are not enough to cause layoffs.

“Sec. Barnes has no way of knowing the budgets for every school district and municipality,” Sen. Boucher said. “Most are already operating with lean margins because of years of the state’s fiscal drought and the loss of so many businesses. The overabundance of costly state mandates on our schools and municipalities already eat up enough of their budgets. They certainly don’t need the state tell them how to spend what money they have left. I am deeply disturbed at the awful way the state budget is being managed and the collateral damage is doing to services for the disabled, hospitals and schools.”

This savings target the Malloy administration is trying to achieve was not included in the original budget approved by the General Assembly. Rather the Governor used his line-item veto power on June 2, 2016 to change the. This means the administration chose to wait six months to inform municipalities exactly how these reductions would be distributed.

We should be headed in exactly the opposite direction as we start a new session. Budget and state contract negotiators should consider first and foremost that the Democrat leadership has already taxed its people to the hilt. The state has lost people and jobs for the last three straight years. Numbers don’t lie. That is why the state faces continual financial crisis.

Instead of cutting school funding that will lead to increasing local property taxes, Sen. Boucher suggested the administration should look into renegotiation employee contracts covering wages and fringe benefits. Local municipalities have already done this.

In a recent CT Mirror article (Union concessions still key focal point . . . Dec. 27) Sec. Barnes confirmed that Connecticut no longer can afford its “extraordinarily generous retiree health benefits, and if our employees wish to maintain them at that level, they are going to have to pay more, or we’re going to have to reduce the generosity of those benefits.” He is quoted saying, “We need to look at COLAs (cost of living adjustments) . . . we have not gone far enough on restructuring our fixed costs.”

In the article, Sec. Barnes acknowledges that even more labor savings are needed and should be part of the next biennial budget.

Sen. Boucher said, “It’s clear from the administration’s own assessment that we can no longer afford expensive pension and health care benefits state employees receive. State taxpayers have already made significant sacrifices. It’s time for state workers to do their part.”

Sen. Boucher said she looks forward to the coming legislative session as an opportunity to create a long-term budget strategy so incidents like this will not happen in the future.

Senator Boucher is Ranking Member of the legislature’s Education Committee, a former State Board of Education Member, and former Chairman of her town’s Board of Education. She represents the towns of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton.