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House Approves Change to Minimum Budget Requirement

by | May 11, 2015 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Education, Equality, Town News, Taxes, State Capitol

Christine Stuart file photo A bill that addresses rising property taxes by giving municipalities more freedom in crafting their education budgets is on its way to the Senate after unanimous approval from the House of Representatives last week.

Championed by Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, the bill — H.B. 7019, An Act Concerning The Minimum Budget Requirement — relaxes minimum spending requirements that prevent cities and towns from spending less on education than they did the previous year. The bill takes decreased enrollment and increased efficiencies into account, giving qualifying schools more room to streamline their budgets.

The bill also allows municipalities to seek approval from the state Board of Education to reduce their budgets further.

Data from the state Department of Education shows many towns are spending more despite serving fewer students. In Sharkey’s district, enrollment decreased 3.28 percent in 2014 while expenditures rose 6 percent.

“School districts are facing declining enrollments throughout the state, but are not currently allowed to reflect that reality in their education budgets,” Sharkey said in a press release. “This is a common sense change that will benefit taxpayers and help boards of education do their jobs better.”

The state’s lowest performing schools would still be required to spend as much as they did the year prior. On the other end of the spectrum, the bill would essentially repeal the minimum budget requirement for the top 10 percent of the state’s highest performing schools.

Under the current regulations, the state can assess a penalty in its funding for districts that spend less than their previous year’s education budget by more than half of 1 percent. This year’s legislation would allow schools with declining enrollment to decrease spending by 1.5 or 3 percent, based on the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.

Penalties for exceeding the statutory requirements are levied at a 2-to-1 ratio. In the current framework, a town that cuts its budget by $50,000 and breaks the one-half of 1 percent threshold could see $100,000 less in its education cost-sharing grant from the state.

RELATED:

OP-ED | Yes On MBR Relief, But School Funding Crisis Looms

Lawmakers Look At Loosening Local Funding Requirements Amid Declining School Enrollment

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Comments

(5) Archived Comments

posted by: justsayin | May 11, 2015  6:04am

Good step in the right direction. Next they need to stop tying money to performance.

posted by: Noteworthy | May 11, 2015  6:23am

The MBR should just be repealed. Period. There is no way the state board of ed knows more about local education than those in local education. They never did. This is one of the reasons we have a bloated, unbalanced state budget and out of control local taxes.

posted by: Biff Winnetka | May 11, 2015  9:35am

The key to Connecticut’s survival is decentralization of power and budget OUT of Hartford and down to the municipalities.

Every Mayor and First Selectman needs to FIGHT Hartford for more power over their municipalities income and expenses.

Sending a dollar to Hartford and getting less than a dollar back back is unsustainable.

posted by: art vandelay | May 11, 2015  10:08am

art vandelay

It’s about time!  Does this apply to every town or just municipalities?  Will it allow local boards of education to re-open teacher’s contracts as a means of reducing costs, and are reductions tied into decreased enrollments?  The majority of education budgets are directly associated with bloated teacher and administrative salaries.

It would be interesting how the Senate votes on this issue.  I wonder if Senator Fonfara will flip flop on this legislation due to the fact he helped craft MBR and is one of its key supporters.

posted by: SocialButterfly | May 11, 2015  5:03pm

There is no chance that a school district can possibly spend less than they spent the previous year, as the mandated union contract raises prevail and result in higher taxes for taxpayers to pay every year.

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