PLYMOUTH - If Plymouth does not receive the $9.7 million it expected from the state in the Education Cost Sharing grant “it would be devastating to the town,” said School Superintendent Martin Semmel.
Gov. Dannel Malloy’s changes to his Executive Order Resource Allocation Plan for state aid to education, announced late last week, would eliminate ECS funding for 85 school districts and reduce funding for 54 other districts should the state not adopt a budget by October.
As a result of the Connecticut General Assembly not passing a budget before the start of the current fiscal year, the governor has been operating the state by executive order since July 1.
According to the Connecticut School Finance Project (CSFP), the changes would mean a more than $557 million cut from 2016-17 funding levels to ECS, which is the primary way the state funds local and regional school districts.
Plymouth would lose all of its expected $9,761,632 ECS grant. CFSP estimates the loss would result in a 39 percent reduction of the school district’s total expenditures.
“This grant is a significant revenue line that was built into the town’s budget that was adopted by the Town Council back in June,” Semmel said. “In order to fund the schools at the current level, the town would need to increase taxes to its citizens substantially. Therefore, it seems that if the governor’s executive order was carried out to its inevitable end, state lawmakers would be imposing high taxes on municipalities like Plymouth without doing the taxing themselves.”
“At the same time, I am disturbed that towns like Plymouth will be hurt at a far greater level than wealthier towns,” Semmel continued.
“For example, the $9.7 million Plymouth receives in the ECS grant accounts for approximately 40 percent of our total education budget. In wealthier towns, the percentage of the ECS grant to the total BOE budget is much smaller. Without naming names, there are wealthier towns that will only lose .1 percent of their total budget from the loss of ECS funding,” he said.
“At the same time, there are towns in this state that will receive no cut at all to their ECS funds. How can this be? Thus the local taxing required by these cuts will be far greater on our more middle class towns, towns like Plymouth, than towns with greater affluence or our larger cities. The funding formula in our state has already been classified as irrational by some and this executive order seems even less rational,” Semmel continued.
“If the school system itself had to absorb the $9.7 million cut on its own, the school system in Plymouth would be fundamentally different,” he said. “We would not be able to offer the quality education that our students deserve and expect. Class sizes would be significantly larger, very important programs would need to be cut, and significant cuts to staff would be a must.”
“This is not an acceptable option,” Semmel noted, especially given school year will be starting up again in just a few days.
On a broader level, Semmel said the governor’s proposal is not just about the current struggle to pass a state budget, “it’s about how perverse a system can get when our leadership at the capitol is more concerned about keeping their elected seat than doing what is right for our state.”
“The budget deficit did not just appear,” he said. “These deficits can (be), and were, predicted by professionals with strong financial backgrounds decades ago. A structural problem in our state budget has been identified for years, yet those elected to represent our state were unable or unwilling to fix the problem when it was smaller. Instead they kicked the proverbial can down the road.”
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.