Some varied sources from the FY'13 process:  Question:  How is the State of CT's budget doing?  Is the State of Connecticut allowed to do this?  Our review of budget process around the state, FY13 town & school budgets, in statement to Charter Revision Commission, June 14th.


Is there a reason to hold an ATBM if no one shows up? Under the new proposed Charter (see below for precise location)*  the meeting would have been "discussion" only.   And for that matter, why have a Town Meeting form  of government at all?  Why not let two of three Selectmen decide everything for 10,000 plus people?  Answering my own question:  because that's not the democratic way - that's "taking orders from headquarters."

No quorum present last night!  Right now, there is no "quorum" requirement for ATBM.  The new proposed Charter suggests a quorum of 2% of "qualified" voters.  That there no longer is a need for the ATBM, as was suggested by 2 members of the Board of
Education in "Letter to the Editor" makes sense to me - putting all items on the call for the Referendum (not just, as has been done the past 2 years, operating budgets of Town and Schools)
9.5(d)(ii) and 9.5(d)(iii)
This is the new wording as interpreted by "About Town" - "if and only if" the 2% of "qualified" town meeting voters are present can you take action.  If there is a quorum, rules liberalized:  Not less than one third of qualified voters present on a standing count are needed to force a secret ballot.

Malloy will ask lawmakers to make emergency cuts if deficit lingers into May
Keith M. Phaneuf, CT MIRROR
March 27, 2012

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy warned his department heads Tuesday he will ask lawmakers to consider emergency spending cuts in May if the administration cannot erase a small deficit in the current state budget -- which closes on June 30 -- over the next month.

"I just ask you to take every step you can," the governor told commissioners at their monthly meeting. "I know everyone is struggling. I understand that. But we have a goal."

Malloy has pledged repeatedly that the $20.14 billion budget he and legislators enacted last spring would finish in the black, under the constitutional spending cap, and with a surplus large enough to continue the ongoing conversion of state finances to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.  In its monthly budget report to Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo's office, Malloy's budget staff, the Office of Policy and Management, projected on March 20 that the General Fund was on pace to finish with a $12.4 million surplus.

But the lawmakers designed the budget to finish $80 million in the black and the administration has said it needs at least a $75 million surplus to continue the GAAP conversion. At the current pace, Malloy would fall $62.6 million short.  Most of that shortfall is due to tax revenue projections, which have not matched the targets set in the adopted budget.  The governor noted that one of the most crucial testing periods for revenue trends is approaching: the annual April 15 deadline for filing state income tax returns.  If the deficit cannot be erased by new savings found by commissioners, or by an improved April revenue forecast, the final step will involve asking lawmakers to approve reductions.

"I intend to direct OPM to prepare a deficit-mitigation plan for presentation to the legislature in May," Malloy wrote in a letter sent to agency heads Tuesday.

Whether the governor can avoid that step remains unclear, for several reasons.  Other fiscal agencies are reporting state finances to be in slightly worse condition than the governor has.  Lembo projected a $20.7 million deficit on March 1. That shortfall, coupled with the GAAP requirement, would leave Malloy with a $95.7 million problem to solve by June 30.  The legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis reported this week that the governor likely needs $115.7 million to balance finances and keep his GAAP pledge.

GAAP rules are a series of common financial guidelines established by the Government Accounting Standards Board to emphasize transparency. Unlike the modified cash basis state government has long used, GAAP rules require that funds be on hand to cover expenses as they are incurred.

State government would need another $1.7 billion in its coffers to cover all its obligations under GAAP rules. And that differential grows annually with inflation. The governor pledged to use the first $75 million of any surplus this fiscal year to cover that inflationary cost and stop the GAAP differential from growing.

One final challenge Malloy faces is the calendar itself. Agency budget allotments for the first three quarters of the fiscal year, which began last July 1, already have been released and -- for the most part -- spent. That leaves only one final quarterly allotment in which to find the remaining savings.  Malloy called the problem a management challenge, not a crisis.

"I believe we're going to be able to close any gap," he said.

State of Connecticut gives away your personal information to JPMorgan-Chase - is this not selling someone elses name?



First Selectman Gayle Weinstein opens the meeting...nominates Susan Moch as Moderator (approved by ATBM).

The preliminaries:  The longest part of ATBM most years is reading the rules by Moderator...
On stage l-r:  Parliamentarian, clerk of the meeting, town attorney, first selectman, Board of Finance chair., Director of Finance, Town Administrator, chair. Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools, Director of Finance and Operations, Education.

Parliamentarian Bob Uzenoff helps explain how to stand and make a proposed cut.

Finance Board Chairman Gerald Sargent (l) moves items listed;  (r) Director of Finance, Town Administrator.

WFFR praised Board of Education (music to their ears) for reasonable budget.

Where are the voters?  It turned out that, according to the Registrars of Voters, turnout was a total of 89 (down from @160);  question about propriety of members of the Board of Education writing letters to the newspaper about Charter Revision changes recommending mandatory Referendum - not called out of order;  final wise word:  Are you sure we voted on the correct numbers (considering that First Selectman had proposed a cut to the budget at ATBM)?

NEWS ALERT: Weston voters approve town and school budgets
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:58

The turnout was light, but Weston voters approved both the town and school 2012-13 budgets at today’s referendum.

A total of 364 votes were cast at the Weston Middle School polling place, including seven absentee ballots and four grand list property owners.

The final votes were:

270 in favor of the $11,314,602 town operating budget, with 94 opposed.

256 in favor of the $45,587,192 education operating budget, with 108 opposed.

The referendum’s 360 registered voters (not including the grand list property owners) represented just 5.6% of the town’s 6,385 eligible voters. That number is down significantly from last year when 885 voters, or 13.5% of the electorate cast their ballots.

The turnout was also light at the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) held on April 4, where just 89 voters attended. At the ATBM, voters approved a total debt service budget of $6,816,900, and $1,401,783 for capital items for the town and schools.

With today’s passage of both operating budgets, the expected mill rate is 24.04, a 0.10% increase from this year’s rate of 23.94.

The finance board is expected to meet on Monday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. to officially set the mill rate.

Annual Town Budget Meeting: Weston voters have their say Wednesday
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Wednesday, 28 March 2012 10:59

About the ATBM

Who: All registered Weston voters and Weston taxpayers with at least $1,000 assessed value of property who are U.S. citizens over the age of 18
What: Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM)
When: Wednesday, April 4, 8PM
Where: Weston High School auditorium
Why: To approve the $65-million town, school, capital, and debt service budget proposals; capital and debt service budgets will be final, while school and town budgets approved at ATBM will go to a machine vote Thursday, April 12.

Weston’s Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) is set for next Wednesday, April 4, at 8 p.m. in the Weston High School auditorium.  Voters are being asked to consider a $65,047,232 gross budget for 2012-13, an overall increase of $1,088,644, up 1.70% from the current year’s budget. That includes:

• The town operating budget of $11,408,552 (a 2.01% increase from the current budget)
• The school operating budget of $45,587,192 (a 0.93% increase)
• A total debt service budget of $6,649,705 (a 1.46% decrease from the current budget)
• A total capital budget of $1,401,783 ($1,147,000 town, $470,238 schools, less $215,455 in revenue offsets) is a 36.49% increase from the current budget.
• The total gross budget is expected to be offset by revenues of $2,668,566, making the net budget $62.378 million, a 1.36% increase over the current net budget.

“This is your chance to participate in democracy,” said First Selectman Gayle Weinstein. “The budget concerns one of the most important bills you will pay this year — your taxes — and you deserve to have a voice in the process.”

Finance board weighs in

Changes were made to the proposed budget by the finance board at a meeting on Wednesday, March 21.

The school board’s capital budget request was lowered from $485,328 to $470,238 due to a $15,000 cut to a paving request for the parking lot across from Central Office at Hurlbutt Elementary School. Finance Board Chairman Jerry Sargent said the cut was made because the property was originally acquired as open space and zoning regulations prohibit it from being paved.

The board lowered the town’s proposed operating budget increase from 2.16% to 2.01% not by cutting the budget, but by increasing the amount of revenue offset from the town’s cell tower enterprise fund. The selectmen had proposed using $122,000 from the enterprise fund towards communications center salaries. The finance board upped that amount by $16,000 to a $138,000 revenue offset.

The finance board considered cutting the school operating budget, but after two failed motions, kept the $45,587,192 request intact.

Mr. Sargent made a motion to cut $150,000 from the school operating budget, which failed in a 4-3 vote. Mr. Sargent, Patty Kopas and David Finkel voted in favor, while Michael Carter, Mike O’Brien, Melissa Koller and Steve Ezzes voted against.

After the meeting, Mr. Sargent said his reason for the cut was based on declining enrollment projected for the schools. “It was the elephant in the room,” he said. Overall, he thought the schools did a “terrific job” managing their current budget by cutting costs in areas such as fuel consumption and health benefits, but believed future declining enrollment needed to be addressed.

A motion was then made by Michael Carter to cut $83,000 from the school operating budget, the cost of a “contingency teacher.” Mr. Carter said if the schools needed the teaching position, they could come back to the board for an additional appropriation.

That motion also failed in a 4-3 vote. Mr. Carter, Mr. Sargent and Mr. O’Brien voted in favor, while Ms. Kopas, Mr. Finkel, Ms. Koller and Mr. Ezzes voted against.

A motion to approve the school operating budget as presented and approved by the school board was approved in a 4-3 vote, with Mr. O’Brien, Ms. Koller, Mr. Ezzes and Ms. Kopas voting in favor, and Mr. Sargent, Mr. Carter and Mr. Finkel voting against it.

Mr. Sargent said Weston’s overall proposed budget increase was lower than surrounding towns.

“Both the town and schools have worked very hard to put together a responsible budget for the taxpayers. I believe it is a worthy budget to approve,” he said.

Annual Town Budget Meeting

Voters at the ATBM will be asked to approve or reject the capital and debt service budgets.

Voters may then discuss the school and town budgets. If a motion is made to do so, the entire amount of the school budget may be lowered by a majority vote of the ATBM. Individual line items in the town operating budget may also be lowered by majority vote.

Town charter does not allow the ATBM to increase either the school or the town budgets.


The final total school and town budgets approved by the ATBM will then head to voters at a machine vote referendum to be held Thursday, April 12, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Weston Middle School in the gymnasium.

Voters must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age.

To vote at the ATBM and/or the referendum, one must be either be a resident of Weston who is registered to vote, or a Weston taxpayer with at least $1,000 assessed value of property.

Absentee voting

Absentee ballots for the referendum will be available beginning Thursday, April 5 (after the ATBM). These ballots must be picked up in person or by a designee and must be returned to the town clerk before the April 12 referendum.

The town clerk’s office at Weston Town Hall is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Those voting absentee must appear at town hall in person or designate on their application a family member or caregiver to pick up an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballots will not be mailed, as allowed by state statute when there is less than three weeks between finalizing the budget and the machine vote.

Mill rate

If all portions of the budgets pass as proposed, the expected mill rate will be 24.10, a 0.16% increase from this year’s rate of 23.94.

A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value on the grand list. The mill rate is derived by dividing the town’s grand levy (its debt) by the town’s grand list. The grand list is made up of real estate, personal property and motor vehicle assessments.

At a mill rate of 24.10, a taxpayer with property assessed at $500,000 would pay $80 more in taxes: $12,050 next year, compared with $11,970 this year.

Because the April 4 ATBM takes place after The Forum’s press deadline, information on the results will not be in the April 5 issue, but will be available online immediately following the meeting. Full coverage of the ATBM will be in the April 12 issue of The Forum.

ONLINE FIRST: Weston Board of Finance sends budget to ATBM
Weston FORUM
Written by Patricia Gay
Thursday, 22 March 2012 15:42

The Weston Board of Finance voted on final proposed town, school and capital budgets to send to the voters.

At a budget meeting held Wednesday, March 21, the board approved a proposed town operating budget of $11,408,552, a 2.01% increase over the current year.

That number is $16,000 less than proposed by the selectmen, and comes from an increase in a revenue offset from an enterprise fund.

The selectmen had proposed taking $122,000 from the town’s cell tower enterprise fund to help pay for operating the communications center. The finance board voted to increase the revenue offset to $138,000. This lowers the proposed increase in the town operating budget from 2.16% to 2.01%.

The finance board approved the school operating budget exactly as proposed by the Board of Education, at $45,587,192, a 0.93% increase over the current year.

The board cut $15,000 from the education capital request, and approved a proposed capital budget of $1,401,783, a 36.49% increase from the current year. The education request included $15,000 for the paving of a driveway at Hurlbutt Elementary School. However, it came to light during the budget process that the area was acquired as open space and cannot be paved because of zoning regulations.

After factoring in the town’s debt service and revenues, the proposed mill rate will be 24.10, a 0.67% increase. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

An Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), is set for Wednesday, April 4. Voters at the ATBM will decide the bottom line town and school budgets that will go to referendum. The machine vote referendum is scheduled for Thursday, April 12.


Town Clerk, 7 members of the Board of Finance listen;  the audience  made up mostly of town employees;  Public Hearing over at 8:25pm.

First Selectwoman get support for the Town side of the budget.

WFFR no complaints about budget.

WFFR says Town Administrator makes too little $$ (compared to administrators in schools)

"What happens to AIM program now that Assistant Superintendent who brought the program to town is leaving?"  Good question.  

Superintendent assures everyone that they have completed work with Columbia Teachers College and they have begun to administer these new techniques throughout tghe professional staff.

M.I.A. at Board of Finance - wanting to be surprised Tuesday March 13, 2012 at 8pm, WMS (?) at Board of Financed Public Hearing! 

Selectmen review school budget.  Responses to questions received in time for action Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 - School and Town (and Capital and Debt Service) budgets to Finance Board.
"About Town" excited about the news of television studio at the Middle School!!!  Turns out that full day kindergarten is less expensive than running buses for half-day kindergarten.  How well are we doing related to global competition? 
Everyone watching on channel 79?  Board of Selectmen ask questions of the Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Ed Tuesday. Thursday they vote on the First Selectman's budget.  The Board of Selectmen noted that they all had children in school - the first time that anyone can remember!

Congratulations to First Selectman Gayle Weinstein for making public her proposed budget online as soon as she was able to do so!

Budget (2pp) summary  here
Full 41 pages here.

Google photo -  we ask:  Little boys always sat in the back of the room?

Weston school board approves budget, full-day kindergarten
Weston FORUM
Written by Kimberly Donnelly
Monday, 30 January 2012 21:26

The Weston school board tonight unanimously approved the superintendent's recommended $45,587,192 budget for the 2012-13 school year. The budget represents a less than 1% increase over the current budget.

In a separate vote, the board also unanimously approved a proposal to begin full-day kindergarten with the next school year.

See more on the approved budget and the kindergarten plan in this Thursday's Weston Forum.

January 18, 2012:  First night of Board of Ed Budget Workshops FY'13 reveals 0.93% increase proposed.  That is $420,854 out of a budget proposed at $45,587,192.  Two more workshops to go over the next two weeks before the Board makes the budget its own (perhaps with changes).

Link to Weston Schools:

OPEB AND GASB impact discussed at Board of Finance - with reduced investment rates, reval coming (in Weston)...the perfect storm if ECS formula "reformed"

District makes $2M cut to capital request

Lisa Chamoff, Staff Writer, Greenwich TIME
Updated 10:52 p.m., Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The school district is deferring some maintenance work until next year in order to comply with a request from the town to hold down capital budget expenditures.

Superintendent of Schools Roger Lulow said at Thursday's Board of Education meeting that various town department heads had been asked make cuts to their capital requests so the requests came within the $45 million that the town has available to spend.

The capital budget process officially kicks off Thursday night with a public hearing at Town Hall.

Greenwich Public Schools cut approximately $2 million from its $24.4 million capital request, an amount that includes the Greenwich High School music instruction space and auditorium project, known as MISA. Without MISA -- the funding for which is not among the cuts -- the district's capital budget was originally about $10 million.

Lulow said he completely eliminated one item from the district's capital spending plan -- air conditioning unit vent replacements at Central Middle School -- because they aren't needed, and would have been eliminated anyway.

The rest of the savings comes from delaying and phasing in other projects. Work to replace windows at Western Middle School, which costs approximately $1.3 million, will be phased in over two years, splitting the amount in half and cutting about $680,000 from the 2012-13 capital budget.

Additionally, $500,000 was already budgeted this year to expand the parent parking area at North Street School over this summer. An additional $573,000 budgeted for 2012-13 to address drainage and traffic issues there would be delayed for one year.

The district is also delaying the $95,000 purchase of a refrigerated truck for its food service program until 2013-14. Other miscellaneous projects, such as courtyard repairs and painting, will be reduced or moved to next year.

Lulow said in making the changes, he looked first and foremost at safety, and then whether projects were already in the process of being implemented.

The district will begin discussing its budget requests, including the $139.8 million operating budget, with the Board of Estimate and Taxation on Feb. 9.

So how much money do towns get as the ECS grant?

Drop in housing values to affect municipal budgets
Frank Juliano, Staff Writer, CT POST
Published 04:41 p.m., Saturday, January 21, 2012

A rare double-whammy to local property values can put an even tighter squeeze on municipal budgets, business and development in the region, officials say.

Revaluations in Shelton, Trumbull, Seymour and Milford completed last fall and reflected in the grand list of taxable property being filed over the next month will show a drop in residential property coupled with little or no growth in commercial values.

Although home values dropped slightly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this is the steepest drop, said Paul Timpanelli, executive director of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. "I do think you'll see some impact from this. There won't be a sharing of the pain to the same degree as usual.''

The tax burden generally shifts to residential properties in a revaluation, which is done every four or five years. About 40 of the state's 169 towns and cities did a revaluation last year, said Kevin Maloney, spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.

The last time these communities did that was at the height of the state's housing boom, he said. "I don't have any data but I would bet that situation (a drop in residential values) is happening everywhere,'' the CCM spokesman said.

Exactly what it will mean to local budgets isn't clear because municipalities need a certain amount of money to operate, and they get it from taxes but also from state and federal grants and fees for permits and services.

Seymour assessor Joseph Kusiak said that he doesn't expect any growth in the town's grand list, but he doesn't expect that any businesses will leave because of the revaluation.

"Maybe in a big city that could happen, but I have seen commercial values holding steady and house prices have dropped. Typically in an up market both go up in value but housing more than commercial real estate. This time is definitely different.''

Milford Mayor Ben Blake said he does not expect a large impact to his city's grand list from the revaluation. "It's one piece of the whole puzzle,'' he said.

Robert Gregory, Milford's economic development director, is also unconcerned. "I think our location, on the water and with I-95 and the Merritt Parkway, together with Milford's other advantages, will negate any effect we might see from this. I don't think business decisions are based on a reval; maybe if the values were to be phased in,'' he said.

Blake noted that the 2006 values, which were done when house prices were at their peak, was never fully implemented. The Board of Aldermen had agreed to phase in the new rates, then froze the assessments in 2009, when 60 percent of the 2006 values had been levied.

"I think the fact that we never fully went to the (2006) reval will cushion some of this,'' the Milford mayor said.

Phyllis Sobczak, the assistant assessor in Shelton, said her city did not phase in its 2006 revaluation. She declined to comment on the city's new grand list.

Budget talks: 'Hold the line'
Susan Tuz, Danbury News-Times
Updated 09:29 p.m., Thursday, March 8, 2012

NEW MILFORD -- Town revenues are down and the economy is sluggish.

Facing Grand List growth of just $1,500, New Milford's Town Council this week cut the mayor's budget proposal for 2012-13 to $92.54 million -- a $488,180 reduction.  Of that nearly half million, $250,000 would come from the school district's budget, lowering it to $57.56 million.

"It's disappointing," said Wendy Faulenbach, chairwoman of the Board of Education.

Mayor Pat Murphy had already recommended $1.15 million less for education spending than the board had requested.  The mayor had recommended the amount be offset by using $1.15 million from the Internal Service Fund toward medical insurance costs.  She said she was "shocked" by the outcome of Tuesday's budget deliberations.  The five Republican council members present supported the cuts, while the three Democrats opposed them.

"They didn't give me any kind of heads up on the cuts they proposed," she said of Republican council members. "I think some of the adjustments could be made without attacking personnel. I think we can keep taxes low without making personnel cuts. We can't serve the public if the staff's not there."

Town-side operating and capital spending proposals were cut by $238,180. Reductions would include $75,000 in personnel salaries in town hall and the annex, a cut of $75,000 from the fringe benefits account, and $25,000 from Public Works capital for storm drains.

The technology administrator's request for a second administrator in his one-person department was cut, saving $60,000, and replaced with a part-time assistant at $30,000.

"For the last four years, our town budgets had money left at the end of the year in many areas," said Democratic councilman Peter Mullen. "I understand that we are coming out of a recession but you can't keep demanding more of staff while continually cutting jobs and payroll."

GOP councilman Pete Bass supported the cuts.

"We have a huge revenue problem," he said.

State statistics show "there are 949 people at this time in town who are unemployed. We have to hold the line," Bass said.

The Town Council's recommendation of a $92.54 million budget would represent a 2.5 percent tax increase, making the mill rate 25.37 mills.  The recommendation goes next to the Board of Finance. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled May 8 and a referendum vote would be May 15.

School board approves 3.49% budget hike
Decision on adult, alternative education program moves postponed
Maggie Gordon, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:42 p.m., Friday, February 17, 2012

STAMFORD -- The school board unanimously approved a 3.49 percent budget increase Thursday night for the upcoming fiscal year while also announcing that the city's adult education program would not be relocated to Rippowam Middle School, as was previously proposed

The board's vote to pass Interim Superintendent Winifred Hamilton's $237.3 million budget came after a relatively uneventful discussion Thursday night, and wraps up the board's portion of the budget process, which spurred but one contentious issue: the relocation of adult education, which Hamilton said would save the district $176,000.

"I had originally made a recommendation on some moves, and I would like to go on record saying I heard from board members," she said during Thursday night's budget meeting.

"I've heard, met with and listened to parents in the community, and I think our job is to be good listeners, and at this time, I want to have more time to look at usage and facilities that would be some other options to consider," she said.

Earlier in the evening, Hamilton also said that she wanted to "hold off on" talks of shifting locations, including the decision to sign a lease at St. Clement of Rome church in Waterside, for the district's Alternate Routes To Success program. The lease has drawn the ire of groups such as Connecticut's ACLU, which cited "unconstitutional restrictions on public education," as a result of a provision in the lease that prohibits the schools from teaching sex education on the premises.

Hamilton said she plans to have a decision about how best to proceed with the ARTS lease by March 8.

But Thursday night's meeting focused more on an agreeable budget process than roadblocks in program location.

"I am very, very firmly in favor of this budget. It's 3.49 (percent), and the staff has done an excellent job in doing that," said Jerry Pia, the board's fiscal chairman.

This is the first time the Board of Education has approved a superintendent's budget without further reductions since the 2002-03 fiscal year, when the board approved the superintendent's proposed increase of 6.89 percent, which was then forwarded to the mayor.

The budget includes plans for additional services the district has not yet seen, such as introducing a world language program to the city's elementary schools as well as $64,000 to add a health teacher to service elementary and middle schools across the district to assist classroom teachers in coverage of health programs.

The school board's budget will be forwarded to the mayor Feb. 29; the board will appear before the Board of Finance's education committee March 1

"Rat" means someting that gets stuck onto a bill in the fog.

Malloy eases up on Norwalk education stance
Norwalk schools: Officials say $650,000 in state ECS funding will be restored
Brian Lockhart, Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 12:18 a.m., Saturday, February 18, 2012

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration is backing off of a decision to single out Republican Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero's hometown of Norwalk for a $650,000 cut in school aid.

"I think the governor is committed to restoring the money," said Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy's senior adviser. But Occhiogrosso would not specify how much in an email Friday.

The administration and Cafero remain at odds over the appropriateness of how Norwalk legislators secured the funds in the first place. The 5-year-old agreement, crafted under then-Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, circumvented the often-maligned Education Cost Sharing formula used to divvy up grants among 169 municipalities.

Norwalk was singled out in statute to receive additional priority schools dollars, which this year would total $650,000.

Occhiogrosso has criticized the move as a back-door deal, even though Malloy's hometown of Stamford in recent years similarly received more school aid than other cities and towns thanks to side budget deals at the Capitol.

Cafero and Democratic legislators from Norwalk counter they did their jobs leveling the playing field for their constituents.

Malloy, Stamford's mayor for 14 years until 2010, was himself a vocal critic of the ECS formula, believing it penalized Fairfield County cities with urban problems.

In his Feb. 8 budget address Malloy outlined an ambitious education reform plan that included changes to the ECS formula and an additional $50 million in grants to, at minimum, flat-fund municipalities.

"Some will get more, but no one will get less," Malloy promised.

A few days later Cafero realized Norwalk was, in fact, losing $72,000 under the governor's proposal because, though the city will receive more ECS funding, the $650,000 priority schools grant was cut.

When Cafero publicly complained, Occhiogrosso told The Associated Press the administration was remedying a "back-room" deal between the minority leader and Rell.

"He was promised that Norwalk would be treated differently than the other 168 cities and towns. What he promised in return is a question you'll have to ask him," Occhiogrosso said.

It was no secret Norwalk's bipartisan delegation in 2007 had returned from the budget debates in Hartford with the spoils. Legislators at the time bragged they secured more education dollars, with Cafero claiming he pushed for the additional money during talks with Rell's budget director, former Norwalk state Sen. Robert Genuario.

"Everybody signed off on it," Cafero said last week, noting Democratic leaders also had to approve of the arrangement.

State Rep. Christopher Perone, D-Norwalk, agreed.

"I don't remember it being something that was negotiated in private. There was an opportunity to bring more dollars for Norwalk. And it doesn't matter (what party) affiliation, everybody is concerned about getting as much ECS funding for Norwalk as possible. We're going to pursue every angle we can," Perone said.

Stamford legislators have, in the more recent past, not been shy about brokering deals of their own over school aid.

In 2009 -- Malloy's last year as mayor -- Democratic leaders in the General Assembly were trying to secure votes from wary Fairfield County lawmakers for an income tax hike on their wealthy constituents. They wooed some Stamford Democrats with city-centric budget goodies, including more education dollars when other municipalities were held flat.

But Occhiogrosso maintained Norwalk's situation was different because it involved a change in state statute.

"That's what was wrong, here," he said. "And it's not the way decisions on education funding should be made."

Asked whether the full $650,000 would be restored to Norwalk, Occhiogrosso said, "(The governor's) intent for Norwalk is the same as his intent for the other 168 cities and towns: to make sure the state does the best it can in addressing the educational needs of the children who go to public schools in Norwalk. What exactly that means in terms of dollars will be determined in the coming weeks."

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, believes the administration will make Norwalk whole.

"My feeling is we're going to be able to restore the $650,000 with the governor's help," Duff said.

Norwalk Superintendent Presents $167 Million Operating Budget For Schools
Budget for Norwalk public schools represents 8 percent hike with new hires and new programs in a deep freeze
By Nancy Burton
December 21, 2011

Superintendent Dr. Susan F. Marks presented a proposed $167 million operating budget for Norwalk’s public schools for fiscal year 2013 to the Board of Education on Tuesday evening.

Citing “interesting economic times,” she acknowledged the schools system is in a “deep freeze” with regard to hiring and initiating new programs.  Nevertheless, the budget represents an eight percent increase over the present budget because of legal and contractual mandates and rising energy costs.

“Our goal is to strike a delicate balance between meeting our educational responsibilities and being fiscally responsible to Norwalk taxpayers,” she said during a session at Norwalk City Hall which began the four-month education budget review process.

Banks and Elio Longo, chief operating officer for the Norwalk public schools, gave a joint presentation to the Board in which they emphasized the factors they called the “major cost drivers” accounting for the eight percent, $12 million increase.  The biggest factor was escalating employee benefit health insurance costs totaling $4.6 million, a three percent increase over the current budget.  In response to questioning by Board members, Longo said he planned to contact Anthem and Sigma, the schools’ insurance providers, in an attempt to rebid the coverage.

“We can’t continue to grow at the current rate of increase,” he said.

Other major cost contributors the two cited were teacher salary increases amounting to $2.12 million, a 1.4 percent increase, and higher utility costs. Longo said a projected increase in heating oil was halved during preliminary budget work when some facilities were switched over to natural gas, resulting in a $530,000 increase rather than a $1 million increase.  Board member Sue Haynie expressed chagrin that the budget proposal meant “this will be the sixth or seventh year in a row with no program improvements in Norwalk.”

In response, Marks and Longo stressed pressures caused by the current economic climate that inhibit investments in new programs.  They defined their critical mission as “At all costs maintain support for reading, writing and mathematics instruction.”

Board member Mike Barbis noted that Norwalk’s vocational education programs have “gone by the wayside” and he hoped they could be revived.  Marks cited costs of resurrecting vocational education but she said it was her goal to establish a school in Norwalk with a career orientation, providing training for the trades and green technology.  She identified cost-cutting initiatives already taken such as redefining staff positions, consolidating schools and applying the findings of a staff demographer to maximize enrollments.

While school enrollment overall is projected to remain stable, she anticipates a two percent increase in the kindergarten-grade five population in 2013, as well as a four percent drop in high school enrollment.  Longer term, Marks said costs of special education could be substantially reduced if students – now transported to area programs outside Norwalk – were schooled in Norwalk.

“We should bring our children home where they can be in their own neighborhoods and school,” she said.

“Long-term, there could be big savings,” she added, noting a 1.5 percent ($2.3 million) increase in special education costs in the new budget.

The budget process continues early in the new year.  The Board will consider the proposed budget at its January 3 meeting at 7:45 PM in Room A300. The following day, the Finance Committee will convene to consider it in the Concert Hall at 7:30 PM.  The budget will be the subject of a special meeting of the Board of Education on January 10 at 7:30 PM in the Concert Hall.

It will be formally present to the city on January 13, with a review to follow on January 19.