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State Agency Says East Windsor Underfunding Board of Education Budget

East Windsor failed to meet the state's minimum budget requirement by $150,000, state Department of Education says.

East Windsor failed meet to the minimum budget requirements in its 2011-12 board of education spending plan, according to the state Department of Education.

The state agency sent a letter to East Windsor officials last week informing them that the town had underfunded the schools budget by $105,812. If the town doesn’t come up with the extra money, the state could penalize East Windsor by deducting two times that amount, or $211,624, from its 2013-14 education cost sharing funding, the letter says.

In order for the department to determine its next steps, the town has until Wednesday to tell the state whether it intends to provide the board of education the money, the letter says.

Superintendent of Schools Theresa Kane told the board of education at its meeting Thursday that the money has to be placed in the school system’s budget some time this fiscal year. The board of education has no role to play in this situation, Kane said.

“Certainly, this is a very troubling development on the town side,” Kane said. “This is an issue between the town and the state Department of Education.”

The state may waive the forfeiture of the ECS money if the town promises to appropriate an amount that is more than the minimum budget requirement and at least equal to the penalty the 2013-14 fiscal year, the letter says. The town can also seek a waiver for good cause.

Kane said she has spoken to First Selectwoman Denise Menard who indicated to her the town would be seeking a waiver from the state.

School officials and board of education members last year informed the boards of finance and selectmen that the town’s education spending could come under this kind of scrutiny.

“We said it several times,” Board Chairman John Pica-Sneeden said. “I would say at least five times.

School officials said the system has come close in past years to not meeting the statute requirement but has always managed to come through.

“This is the first year we’ve ever been sent a letter,” Pica-Sneeden said.

Board members said the school budgets of the past few years have not helped the system move forward.

“This is what we’ve been saying for years,” Board Member Judith Rajala said. “As (board member Leslie Hunt) said “zero is not zero, it’s going backwards.’”

Kane said she is going to reach out to the chairman of the board of finance to talk about the situation. She said it is a chance for the boards of education, finance and selectmen to improve their communication with each other.

“It gives us an opportunity,” Kane said. “We’ve got to break the cycle.”

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