BREAKING NEWS—April 12, 2016: On Tuesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy released a budget that would hit Wilton hard with proposed cuts eliminating state education funding to the town, as well as possible cuts in other areas. While it’s not a done deal, and likely won’t be something that shakes out until May 4, when the legislative session ends in Hartford, it’s something that is very concerning to local officials.
Malloy’s proposed cut would eliminate $1,461,523 in state funding earmarked for education costs that Wilton was scheduled to receive in FY 2017.
That direct hit would be via eliminating Wilton’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. According to a CT General Assembly report, “ECS aid is the major form of state education aid to Connecticut’s towns…The ECS formula is intended to equalize state education funding to towns by taking into account a town’s wealth and ability to raise property taxes to pay for education. Poor towns receive more aid per student; affluent towns receive less aid per student.”
Typically the aid Wilton receives reimburses a percentage of expenses Wilton incurs in special education spending. For FY ’17, Wilton’s Board of Finance included an amount they expected to receive in calculating this year’s proposed budget. When the budget was initially prepared, the BOF included the $1,461,523, until on April 6, at the mil rate deliberation meeting, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice informed them of initial reports from Hartford, that the Appropriations Committee had proposed making cuts to the ECS portion that Wilton would receive. At the time, the specific amount wasn’t known but wasn’t thought to be higher than around $500,000.
The BOF approved a budget that included $1,211,523 as the figure they thought they’d receive after Appropriations Committee cuts—a reduction of $250,000. Malloy’s proposed budget would wipe out the $1,461,523 entirely.
Wilton’s state representative, Gail Lavielle, explained that the two proposals in front of the legislature now—Malloy’s, which would cut Wilton’s entire ECS, and the legislative majority’s, which would cut Wilton’s ECS by $603,000—are not done deals.
“We may not know anything about what will finally be passed as a budget until May 4, which is the last day of session. As of now, everything is just a proposal. But it would be extremely imprudent not to assume that whatever budget is passed will include cuts,” Lavielle said.
She noted that there will also likely be additional cuts to municipal aid in both proposals. Her staff is working now to figure out how much that would mean for Wilton in both proposals, and she’ll be at the Board of Finance meeting this Thursday, April 14, to discuss the recent events.
“A reduction of this size with no warning or phase in is a significant blow to the town as it represents approximately 1-percent of our total budget. If adopted, it virtually wipes out the reserve the BOF built into the FY2017 budget,” Vanderslice said in an email to GOOD Morning Wilton. She noted that as the news was just released, she and BOF chair Jeffrey Rutishauser hadn’t yet had a chance to confer, but that she had reached out to Wilton’s legislators, including Lavielle and the other state representative, Tom O’Dea, as well as state senator Toni Boucher.
Bruce Likly, the chair of Wilton’s Board of Education, emailed his comment as well: “The State obviously has some very difficult decisions to make as exemplified by the Governor’s recommended cuts in his most recent budget proposal. While this news would be very difficult for Wilton to swallow I do not believe this current proposal is the final budget that will be approved. It does however exemplify why Wilton needs to be vigilant in its work to run the town as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
GOOD Morning Wilton will update this story as we know more.