Senator Witkos Provides a Legislative Update to the Granby Board of Education [Granby News]

March 7, 2013

Article as it appeared in the Granby News on March 7, 2013

GRANBY — The Granby Board of Education learned about issues in the state legislature including struggles for education funding and the focus on school safety Feb. 27, when State Sen. John Kissel, State Sen. Kevin Witkos, and State Rep. and former Granby Selectman Bill Simanski were guest legislators at the board’s meeting.

The trio gave the board and Superintendent an update on the governor’s budget proposal.

Simanski said the governor’s budget does not to help education or the state in general. He believes the moving around of money is nothing but a screen to make himself look good.

“It’s all smoke and mirrors,” said Simanski. “In the end, everything is a wash. He is just moving money around to make it seem like he is raising money.”

All three legislators decried the governor’s decision to try and raise the budget during the two years by a total of nearly 10 percent, while doing nothing to raise revenues. In situations like the schools budgets, where education has been level-funded for the past four years with no significant increase in state aid, Simanski and Kissel said the reliance on the property tax is what will suffer the most.

“They are going to raise taxes,” said Kissel. “They already went through one of the biggest taxes raises in state history, and that was supposed to fix everything. It has not.”

The three also said Malloy’s proposal to eliminate the car tax collected by towns on cars worth less than $20,000 may also adversely affect the overall budgets.

“That could cost the town a lot of money,” said Kissel. “And it would increase the reliance on the property tax.”

In Connecticut, the mill rate, or tax rate, is determined by a grand list of assets, including property, real property, and motor vehicles. If the value of motor vehicles is removed from the equation, the mill rate will likely increase.

Simanski said while the news is not good, he did say the legislature’s appropriations and finance committees will likely make changes.

“Right now, his budget is meaningless until appropriations and finance have been through it,” said Simanski.

Witkos and Kissel are both sitting on the task force dedicated school safety. The pair talked about the discussions currently going on in Hartford.

“We know that we cannot impose costly mandates,” said Witkos. “But we are looking at a lot of things to help schools to increase safety. We are looking at emergency protocols, infrastructure, and best practices. We want teachers to be best equipped to handle emergency situations.”

Witkos said the legislature has been looking at a guide created in the town of Westport, considered one of the best guides in the country for school safety practices.

Superintendent Alan Addley told the legislators the school district, including faculty, have become frustrated with the amount of work and mandates placed on them by the state.

“Schools have a tremendous amount of undo stress,” said Addley. “We have Common Core Standards, budgets, testing, teacher evaluations. We just simply can’t do everything well. There is only so much everyone can do.”

The schools are also upset at the cost required to do teacher evaluations, saying it would likely cost at least $100,000 in Granby.