HARTFORD - Gov. Dannel Malloy announced changes to his Executive Order Resource Allocation Plan Friday morning, eliminating Education Cost Sharing funding for 85 school districts and reducing funding for 54 other districts should the state not adopt a budget by October.
New Britain and Bristol, as so-called Alliance Districts, the name given to the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state, would fare better than their neighboring districts. New Britain would still get more than $86.2 million in ECS funding and Bristol would still get $44.8 million.
State lawmakers have not passed a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 and the following year. The state faces an estimated $3.5 billion deficit over the next two years.
“In the absence of an adopted budget from the General Assembly, my administration is reallocating resources to pay for basic human services, education in our most challenged school districts, and the basic operation of government,” Malloy said in a statement.
“The municipal aid that is funded as part of this executive order reflects the nearly impossible decisions Connecticut must make in the absence of a budget. It will force some of our municipalities - both large and small - to make similarly difficult choices of their own.”
In the plan, Berlin would lose 100 percent of its ECS funding – more than $6.2 million – from the state. Southington’s more than $20 million in ECS funding would also get zeroed out, as would Plymouth’s $9.7 million in funding.
Other municipalities in the area would see reduced funding rather than a full elimination.
Newington would see a 90 percent reduction in ECS funding, reducing its funding from almost $13 million to about $1.3 million. Plainville would see a reduction of about 80 percent in ECS funding, from about $10.2 million to about $2 million.
Superintendent of Schools Maureen Brummett said she would not panic about the proposed reduction.
“It is such an outrageous cut that I can’t imagine our state legislators will allow it,” she said. “I have been in communication with Sen. Henri Martin and Rep. Bill Petit. I have also spoken to our town manager, Robert E. Lee, and with Director of Finance Rob Buden, and they agree. Everyone would be taking a hit in some way and I can’t imagine that this budget will stay.”
Brummett stressed that Malloy’s proposal won’t take effect until Oct. 1, when municipalities would normally receive state funds.
“I hope that our state officials realize that if they don’t want this to happen they need to put forth a budget,” she said. “This would set education back dramatically. This should be a wakeup call. This cannot possibly be how the budget ends up. I hope that the legislature gets this proposal completely eradicated and that they replace it with something better.”
Lee said he believes the governor’s proposal to be a “ploy to get the legislature to do something.”
“You looked at Plainville and other communities and it is just inconceivable to me that any rational legislator will allow this to go into place,” said Lee. “I have consulted the council to be patient. I don’t think that we should overreact. We should wait until the legislature hopefully passes the budget in September as planned. Under this proposal, Berlin would be losing $7 million and that is the Speaker of the House’s home town. I can’t believe that a majority would ever support this.”
Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan called the proposed cuts to Southington’s education funding “completely outrageous.”
“This hasn’t gone into effect yet and this is not the final word but ladies and gentlemen of the General Assembly, the people of Connecticut are tired of you not getting your job done,” he said. “Get into a room, get the budget done. This executive order will hurt our children. Where would we come up with another $13 million in reductions? This is Robin Hood-style budgeting, pitting district against district and people against people. Our town has been conservative financially and we have saved money and come up with reasonable budgets. Are we going to be punished for that?”
Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said he is “hesitant to overreact” about the proposed elimination of 100 percent of the town’s state education funding, which would result in a $20 million loss.
“It would be devastating so I hope that our legislators pass a budget that makes this proposal irrelevant,” he said. “It is difficult to imagine the level of devastation that this level of cut would cause. I don’t have any reason to believe that it will be coming back. I have communicated with the council and I have spoken to our legislators and one of them is the Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz. He is confident that they will be able to get something else done.”
“This has never been my preferred path,” Malloy said in a statement. “I have proposed full balanced budgets and also short-term solutions that would alleviate some of this pain. It is incumbent upon state leaders to come together and reach an agreement on a biennial budget right away.”
Following the governor’s announcement, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano, R-North Haven, issued a statement criticizing Malloy’s plan.
“Instead of adopting a fair education funding formula, Governor Malloy’s executive order exacerbates the very same education funding system deemed unconstitutional by the Connecticut Superior Court,” Fasano said in a statement. “What the governor is doing, arbitrarily shifting funding to only a few school districts and stripping core funding that children across our state are relying on, is not what the judge ordered - nor is it in the best interest of our students.”
Fasano said Malloy’s order violates Connecticut law on multiple fronts.
There is still time for legislators to prevent drastic cuts to ECS, though. The first wave of ECS funding payments - 25 percent - will be made in early October. If legislators can adopt a state budget before then, this executive order wouldn’t effect education funding.
Staff writers Brian Johnson and Susan Corica contributed to this report.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at email@example.com.