Martin, Betts: Governor ignored our plans for Plymouth school funding

Published on Monday, 18 December 2017 21:34
Written by SUSAN CORICA

@coricaBP

PLYMOUTH - The governor’s cuts to municipal and education funding ignored state legislators’ plans for the funding when passing the state budget, according to state. Sen. Henri Martin and state Rep. Whit Betts.

Martin and Betts were responding to comments in a newsletter Superintendent Martin Semmel sent to parents recently, which noted that Gov. Dannel Malloy reduced the school district’s funding by $800,000. The cuts are in addition to $600,000 in funding reduced by the state budget and caused the district to postpone planned hires and funding for student programs.

“When my fellow legislators and I voted for the bipartisan state budget in October, we were very clear that we wanted each community to receive the amount of funding detailed in the budget,” Martin said. “Gov. Malloy’s continued insistence that local communities pay for the state’s budget mistakes has forced municipalities to take on tremendous financial burdens. It seems one way or another, he was going to make sure that towns, and property owners, pay,” he added.

Semmel’s November newsletter to parents had referred to the long delay in passing a state budget and subsequent funding cuts by Malloy as “a total mess” which is “causing a great deal of stress throughout the system.”

He summarized how the state budget process had affected the Board of Education’s planning in recent months: In October the board was facing potential cuts to its Education Cost Sharing state grant of nearly $9.7 million, so the members found ways to place close to $700,000 of the school budget into a contingency fund, including laying off some staff.

When the state budget finally passed on Oct. 26, the ECS grant was reduced by just $600,000 for the current school year.

By Nov. 15, the board voted to take about $100,000 out of the contingency fund, by restoring the library media specialist position at Terryville High School, a part-time custodian for Eli Terry Jr. Middle School, the district’s energy conservation specialist position, the in-school suspension monitor at the middle school, field trips for the high school band and School to Career program students, and a tutor for struggling high school students.

“I’m fed up and tired of great communities like Plymouth getting overlooked and unfairly penalized financially because of the annual deficits that continue to plague our state,” Betts said. “Plymouth is a wonderful community that has very special people and they deserve to be rewarded, not penalized, because they are a small town.”

Two days later, the board learned that Malloy had decided to further reduce state aid to schools, including another $800,000 cut to Plymouth. The board then decided to put the restored positions on hold for the time being while the members discussed how to handle the additional cuts.

“While I was proud of the proactive work of the BOE and the administrative team, the result of the State budget crisis absolutely impacted our ability to service students,” Semmel wrote. “The school system cannot shoulder an additional $800,000 in cuts. We are looking for any additional opportunities that can help solve for the problem but our students and our education program cannot afford to be the entire solution.”

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Plymouth on Monday, 18 December 2017 21:34. Updated: Monday, 18 December 2017 21:36.