Updated: Mar 15, 2021
In a recent New Britain Independent article, the State of Connecticut Education Chair made petty and false claims insisting that Mayor Erin Stewart is underfunding schools. Rep. Sanchez, a Democratic career politician stated that: “During Mayor Stewart’s term… New Britain has gone from middle of the pack to dead last in achievement and funding.” Sanchez further stated that, “During this time…we need leaders who are ready to step up and find solutions, not blame others.” However, Mayor Stewart does not have jurisdiction over education in New Britain. Indeed, the Consolidated School District of New Britain derives their power from the State Board of Education.
While she does formulate her own budget, Mayor Erin Stewart has increased school funding and the M.B.R. since 2013 when she was elected. This budget then needs to be approved by the Common Council e.g., Alderpersons, in which she has to justify her decision on whether or not to increase. This time around; however, she will not increase funding from current levels for the Consolidated School District of New Britain due to lack of educational quality derived from the local Board of Education. While it was expected to upset current Board of Education members, Erin Stewart has done nothing wrong, unless she reduces the budget below the M.B.R. However, according to a document obtained from the Connecticut School Finance Project, the State of Connecticut “prohibits a municipality from budgeting less for education than it did the previous year, unless it meets specific exceptions.” These exceptions occur when:
· A town experiences a decrease in ECS funding from the prior fiscal year; however, the MBR reduction may not be more than the decrease in ECS funding.
· Districts that have experienced a reduction in their resident student count may look back up to a 5-year period to calculate their decrease in resident student count. The district can decide which consecutive years, up to the last five years, they would like to include in this calculation. However, the decline in student count for a given year can only be used one time to prevent districts from counting the same student count decline twice. When calculating a MBR reduction under this exemption, the district is permitted to reduce its MBR by an amount equal to the net reduction in resident students multiplied by 50 percent of its net current expenditure per resident student.
· If a district does not maintain a high school and the number of students for which it pays tuition has decreased, the district’s town may reduce its MBR by the difference between the number of students it paid tuition for in the previous year and the number of students it currently pays tuition for, multiplied by the cost of tuition.
· If a district realizes new and documented savings through increased efficiencies approved by the commissioner of the CSDE or through regional collaboration or cooperative arrangements, the town may reduce its MBR by half of the achieved savings, provided that amount does not exceed 0.5 percent of the district’s budget. Efficiency savings include, but are not limited to, the following:
o Reductions in contract costs not including collective bargaining agreements, transportation service efficiencies, or a cost savings in school district administration;
o Cost savings in medical or health care benefit agreements;
o Cooperative agreements related to administrative or central office functions;
o Reductions in costs due to purchasing of insurance including property insurance, casualty insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance;
o Reductions in costs associated with the purchasing of payroll or accounts payable software; o Savings from the consolidation of information technology services; and
o Reduction in costs associated with athletic field care and maintenance.
· The commissioner of the CSDE may allow a town to reduce its MBR by an amount determined by the commissioner if the town’s school district has closed one or more schools due to declining enrollment.
· Member towns of a newly formed regional school district do not have to adhere to the MBR during the first full fiscal year following its establishment.
· Expenses that are incurred as a result of a catastrophic insurance loss can be excluded from expenditures for the purposes of calculating a district’s MBR in the following year. This exemption can only be taken by a school district that is self-insured and can only be taken when the school district provides documentation that the expenses are a result of a catastrophic event by a nationally recognized catastrophic loss index provider. Please note this exemption is related to insurance coverage purchased by the district and not related to expenses incurred by educating the student population. For example, a loss incurred as a result of unusually high medical costs may be captured by this provision. A large increase in expenditures due to the student population would not.
Unless one of those few conditions are met, the Consolidated School District of New Britain, which already receives approximately half the city’s annual budget revenues will not receive less in funds from the city. It is to note, that New Britain schools are set to receive $55.3 million in aid underneath President Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed by the house of representatives last week, and will also be receiving an additional $22,902,450 for the post-covid reengagement era from the State of Connecticut.