While East Windsor officials had already pledged to increase the school system’s 2011-12 budget to meet state minimum budget requirements, a meeting with Connecticut Department of Education officials didn’t ease their pain.
The state agency notified East Windsor officials in August that the town had underfunded the schools budget by $105,812. The town budgeted and approved a $19,406,450 spending plan for the schools in fiscal 2011-12.
Brian Mahoney and Kevin Chambers of the state Department of Education met with town officials at the board of selectmen meeting Tuesday to explain how the agency arrived at its determination.
East Windsor should have budgeted $19,610,314, Chambers said. That number minus what the town appropriated plus a $98,052 deduction for a decrease in the students whose education is paid for by the town leaves $105,812, Chambers said.
“You didn’t appropriate enough money, “ Chambers said.
In the past, towns were required to base their educational spending on the previous year’s budget, but the state legislature changed that requirement at the end of May or beginning of June last year, Mahoney said.
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, Mahoney reminded officials Tuesday.
Town officials said the majority of the increase in the 2011-12 budget went to the schools.
Selectman James Richards said the town has been increasing the schools’ budget but the state is not recognizing that.
Mahoney said in the legislation there has never been an expectation that the local government has to increase its spending just meet the minimum budget requirement.
“We at the department of education have heard the frustration at the local level,” Mahoney said.
Board of finance member Marie DeSousa said her concern is that the first time she heard of the state changing what year the education budget should be based on was Tuesday. Officials will have to come up with the additional $105,812 from this year’s budget, and are already have to find an additional $105,812 for fiscal 2012-13 before they’ve looked at anything else.
“In a small town like East Windsor, that kills us,” DeSousa said. “We have to go back to the town side, our infrastructure is falling apart. That doesn’t seem fair.”
When asked what timeline does the town have to give the money to the board of education, Chambers said it must be done in a manner that the schools can use the funds in this fiscal year.
Mahoney said the town can give the money out partial payments until the total is reached. The state will monitor the situation and would not likely intervene unless officials start hearing complaints from the superintendent of schools.
Selectmen said they will consult with the board of finance and the town treasurer to determine where the money will come from.
“We really do need to resolve this and move forward,” First Selectwoman Denise E. Menard said.