February 4, 2009

City leaders generally pleased the governor's budget isn't worse for Bristol

City officials are happy that Gov. Jodi Rell spared municipalities from most of the potential budget cuts they had feared.

City Finance Chairman Rich Miecznikowski called Rell’s decision to freeze education and most other aid “terrific.”

“It will help us tremendously in shaping the budget for next year,” Miecznikowski said.

One immediate effect is that the worst case scenario for city schools – which have plans for up to 108 layoffs – almost certainly won’t be necessary. But it remains possible that as many as 27 teachers and 18 other school personnel could be laid off.

"It could have been worse," said Superintendent Phil Streifer. "I suppose we'll take half a loaf rather than no loaf."

Streifer said that while the Educational Cost Sharing funds from the state to towns for schools are leveled rather than cut – totaling $41.7 million annually – he said it means that the local portion of the cost will rise.

The current school budget is nearly $101 million. If it goes up while state aid stays the same, city taxpayers are on the hook for the increase.

Streifer said he knows that times are tough, and he said other parts of the state budget "took a much harder hit" in order for educational funding to be spared from cuts.

"I was pleased that the governor at least took some stand on education," said Streifer. "It's a mixed bag on the education side."

Mayor Art Ward said he was glad to hear Rell’s support for delaying some mandates and changing binding arbitration rules.

Keeping state education aid level poses a longer term problem because the city share of the overall school budget will have to grow if the state funding stays the same, said Streifer, since costs rise every year.

From his initial look at the state budget proposal, Streifer said, it appears that state contributions to special education costs are also being frozen. He said those cost are rising, especially the cost the city must pay to transport and educate some special ed students outside of the district.

Each year, Streifer said, he has to take money away from other education programs to pay for special ed, which he said is costing more $1.4 million more than budgeted this year.

"It's squeezing the regular education side," said Streifer.

With luck, and some help from the city, the relaxation of state mandates and some federal contributions, Streifer said he can make the local school budget work this year and next. But he said 2011 "looks like a pretty big challenge."

Key aid for Bristol from Gov. Rell

ECS - $41.7 million

Roads - $250,000

PILOT funds - $503,000

The exact aid figures for every town are HERE.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com


Anonymous said...

This is great, now Ward can keep giving his Union Boy's nice big contracts!

Anonymous said...

Rich, Education is the FIRST area you would cut.

When are you going to start being honest with the people???

Anonymous said...

Cudos to Governor Rell on removing useless laws .

She should also call for a moratorium on Stop signs .

If anyone wants to put up a new stop sign , first , you need to remove one of the moronic stop signs that currently proliferate our city streets causing wasteful use of fuel and pollute the environment.

Anonymous said...

There ARE too many useless stop signs, but Terryville has even more. The ones on Matthews St. at Minor are a joke. Their Police Commission should rename themselves the Stop Sign Committee.