Plymouth may face teacher layoffs due to budget impasse

Published on Saturday, 30 September 2017 21:09
Written by SUSAN CORICA

STAFF WRITER

PLYMOUTH - Gov. Dannel Malloy’s veto Thursday of the Republican state budget will likely have serious immediate consequences for the town and its schools, including teacher layoffs and worse.

Connecticut is the last state in the nation without a budget in place for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Malloy has been running state government with his limited spending authority. And under his executive order, without a new budget law by Sunday, Oct. 1, major spending cuts to cities and towns would automatically go into effect, including cuts to state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants to local public schools.

Superintendent Martin Semmel said Plymouth is in line to lose all of its $9.7 million in ECS.

That is 40 percent of the current year’s school budget, he said. “Our students are paying the price for mismanagement in Hartford. We’re trying to lead in the dark, it’s a tough place to lead from.”

“There is no way that Plymouth can function without $9.7 million,” he said. “Because we don’t have a state budget we have positions like our library media specialist that we didn’t fill.”

“We can’t deficit spend, so we have to protect against worst case scenarios,” Semmel continued. “So we are actually laying off a number of staff as of the middle of October if we get cut so deep. These are all important members of our teaching community, and we don’t want to see them go, but the bottom line is if we can’t afford them we can’t afford them.”

Melissa Johnson, Board of Education chair, said she has lived in Plymouth for 20 years and “I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.”

“I’m afraid for the kids,” she said. “I’m afraid we’re going to go to large class sizes, and absolutely no extracurriculars. It’s going to be bare bones. I have parents calling me and texting me and they’re scared they don’t know what to do.”

Phillip Penn, school district business manager, said if the governor’s executive order goes into effect Oct. 1, “this town could potentially run out of cash in November.”

“At that point you could very realistically be talking about a bankruptcy filing for this town,” Penn continued. “If you run out of cash, and you can’t pay your bills and your payroll you’re done.”

The school officials spoke after a press conference at Town Hall Thursday morning, at which state and local Republicans had urged Malloy not to veto their party’s state budget.

Malloy’s executive order would also shift responsibility for funding the state teacher retirement plan onto municipalities, which Mayor David Merchant said would cause further fiscal woes for Plymouth.

“This state budget should have been decided back in June,” Merchant said. “We put our town budget together based on the best information that we had going forward. Now here we are three months into the fiscal year and we’re talking about making major cuts. We just can’t sustain that.”

“I feel like we’re canoeing down the river and they’re about to take the canoe paddle out of our hands and send us over the rapids,” he added.

Malloy had promised the veto since the $40.7 billion two-year package was narrowly passed Sept. 16 with the help of several defections by legislative Democrats. He called the budget unbalanced, unsustainable and unwise.

Connecticut faces a projected $3.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years.

Republicans, who do not control either chamber in the legislature, have defended the budget, saying it doesn’t raise taxes and more fairly distributes education aid.

Malloy said Thursday in a letter to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill that the Republican plan relies on changes to the state pension system that wouldn’t go into effect for a decade and are “both financially and legally unsound.”

The governor has also blasted the budget for cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from higher education, especially the University of Connecticut. He has said the budget would not provide enough funding for transportation projects and enough aid to municipalities such as Hartford, which he said would almost certainly be required to go bankrupt.

A veto override by Republicans appears unlikely. It would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers, 101 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate. The budget passed with 78 votes in the House and 21 in the Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Plymouth, Terryville on Saturday, 30 September 2017 21:09. Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2017 21:11.