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State sets formal inquiry into Ansonia school funding

December 5, 2018

HARTFORD — The state Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to schedule a formal inquiry on whether the City of Ansonia shortchanged its school system.

The full board, rather than a subcommittee of three, is to hear the case beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 3. A decision is not expected that day and might not come until the board’s March 6 meeting.

The inquiry follows an investigation into charges that the city of Ansonia shortchanged its school district by $600,000 in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years.

The state Department of Education concluded there is reasonable cause to believe the city was failing to meet the minimum budget requirement for school funding in the current fiscal year, based on actions it took in 2017-18 to reduce its district appropriation by $600,000.

“There is reasonable cause to believe that the city lacked proper legal authority to make this mid-year reduction,” wrote Laura L. Anastasio, the state board’s chief legal counsel.

Ansonia Schools Superintendent Carol Merlone testified at Wednesday’s board meeting, but said she had to leave for a budget hearing before the board took its vote. She said most board members spoke in favor of expediting the process.

The state action comes as city and school officials are waiting on a ruling from state Superior Court Judge Barry K. Stevens, who last month heard oral arguments on the matter.

On Monday, Mayor David Cassetti said it would be Connecticut Superior Court and not the Commissioner of Education or the State Board of Education that decides the matter.

Stevens has up to 120 days from the Nov. 13 hearing, to make his ruling.

lclambeck@ctpost.com; twitter/lclambeck

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