Sen. Hwang Praises House Passage of Legislation That Gives Towns Greater Flexibility on Education Budgets

May 13, 2015

HARTFORD- State Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) praised members of the House of Representatives for their unanimous vote May 7 in support of a bill that provides municipalities with greater flexibility to address declining student enrollment.

The genesis for the bill, HB 7019, An Act Concerning the Minimum Budget Requirement, is a growing trend of declining student enrollment in towns across Connecticut. Under the existing MBR statute, municipalities are extremely limited in terms of how much they can reduce their education budgets to reflect the enrollment declines. Reductions are currently limited to 0.5% of the total education budget in a given year.

The proposed bill, which Sen. Hwang co-sponsors, increases the allowable spending reductions to 1.5% or 3%, based on the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. A local Board of Education could also apply for approval from the state Department of Education (SDE) for further reductions, and the top 10% of highest performing school districts do not have a spending reduction cap and do not need an SDE signoff.

“With towns across the state facing significant declines in student enrollment for at least the next 10 to 15 years, this bill provides our education boards and municipal leaders with much-needed flexibility to work together in a collaborative manner to align resources and needs in a fiscally responsible manner without sacrificing the educational excellence we all strive for and value,” Sen. Hwang said.

At the same time, the bill also presents the very real potential for meaningful property tax relief at the local level.

“If in the face of declining student enrollment our local education and municipal leaders can achieve budget savings without sacrificing educational excellence, then this is truly a win for all stakeholders in our communities,” Sen. Hwang said. “We all feel the pressure of property taxes, and it is incumbent upon us as elected officials and responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars to come up with ways to lessen that burden without sacrificing the quality of essential government services.”

“I’d like to thank my colleagues in the House for voting in support of this bill,” the senator added. “I look forward to doing the same when it comes before the Senate.”