School board keeps eye on state budget as school year begins
FAIRFIELD — As school opened this week, Board of Education officials kept a wary eye on the state’s financial outlook.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state Legislature have yet to agree on a budget for the state, leaving the question of what educations funds — if any — the town will receive.
The town’s spending plan was adopted with the assumption of a loss of Education Cost Sharing revenue, and a reduction of excess cost money for special education. It also assumes the state will not require the town to share in funding the state’s teacher pension plan.
“That’s a hard one,” Superintendent of Schools Toni Jones said Tuesday, as she provided a budget update to the Board of Education. “There’s not a whole lot to update. The state still doesn’t have a budget.”
Jones said she received a report with six different iterations of the state budget that have been put forward.
What concerns her, Jones said, is that two of those versions show the state putting the excess special education money through a wealth formula
“It’s going to be our job to continue to watch the budget,” she said. “Right now, it’s pretty scary in that it’s so unknown.”
The school board has put $2 million in reserve in anticipation of losing some of that excess cost sharing money, Chairman Philip Dwyer said. “I think $2 million, plus how they adjust excess cost, is the risk on our budget,” he said. “It’s higher on the town side.”
Because the ECS money comes to the town, not the school board, any cuts would impact the town side, not the Board of Education, since a budget has been approved and adopted.
Dwyer said the school budget assumes about $1.4 million in the special education funding from the state.
“If the state finally wrings its hands and convinces the legislature that some portion of the pension has to be transferred to the town, the town could come to the BOE and say we really need you to help us,” Dwyer said.”I would be hesitant to say our maximum risk is.”
Jones said Fairfield, which only gets a small percentage of its budget funding from the state, “is better off than a lot of our colleagues” who rely on 30 to 40 percent of the funding from the state.