Ansonia Failed to Meet Requirements for Education Funding: State

The State Department of Education has notified the City of Ansonia that the city has failed to meet its minimum budget requirements (MBR) for public education funding for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and for the coming year, which could cost the city over $1 million in education grant funding if not made up.

Under Connecticut law, MBR prohibits a town from budgeting less for education than it did the previous year without demonstrating certain requirements, such as a reduction in aid or a decrease in enrollment.

In June 2017, the Ansonia Board of Alderman approved an education budget of $31.8 million for the 2017-2018 year, making the MBR $31.8 million.

In January 2018, the Board of Alderman slashed that budget by $600,000 down to $31.2 million, a move that led to a major dispute that escalated to the point of a lawsuit as school district leaders claimed schools might have to shut down early due to the budget crisis.

The city and Board of Education ultimately settled the lawsuit with a one-time deal of the city giving $500,000 to the Board of Education for the fiscal year.

The Board of Alderman in June also approved a $31.2 million budget for the 2018-2019 school year.

According to the state, that's not good enough.

The letter from the state, dated August 8, states that the city failed to meet its MBR for the 2017-2018 school year, and will also fail to meet its obligation in the current fiscal year unless it appropriates an additional $600,000 to the Board of Education. If the city fails to meet its MBR, it could result in a reduction to state grant money to double the amount - $1.2 million. If the city loses that funding, it would still be required to fund the Board of Education to the MBR level with local funds.

The letter went on to urge city leaders to work toward a solution at the local level before the state has to take enforcement action. The state also offered to meet with the city and school board to discuss a solution.

In an interview Wednesday, Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti told NBC Connecticut at this point he's not willing to give more money to the schools, and wants the issue to play out in court.

"Not until I get a detailed budget from them so I can see where their money is being spent," he said.

Cassetti also said he had not yet decided whether to attend the meetings offered by the state.

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