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Ansonia Aldermen delay approval of $850,000 BOE settlement, table request for new Middle School

February 14, 2019

ANSONIA-It will be at least another week before the city’s Aldermen sign off on a proposed $850,000 settlement to end the Board of Education’s lawsuit.

And it could be even longer before they consider approving $20,000 for the school board to begin a feasibility study on the building of a new $37 million Middle School on Pulaski Highway.

Both matters meant for another late night the Aldermen spent in City Hall Wednesday. On Feb. 4, they met until almost 11:30 p.m. discussing the proposed settlement. They will meet again next week.

In the meantime, Corporation Counsel John P. Marini said Barbara Schellenberg, the city’s lawyer will be meeting with Fred Dorsey, the school board’s lawyer.

“The parties still have an agreement in principal,” Marini said following another executive session discussion. “We just want to make sure about the exact wording but the tenents remain the same.”

Those tenents involve an $850,000 appropriation to the current 2018-19 school board budget. That number will be reduced to $800,000 as the minimum budget requirement in the 2019-20 budget.

In return the school board is to sign a letter authorizing the city’s insurance broker to analyze board of education claims information so they can evaluate insurance costs and options. The board is self insured and over spent their 2017-18 budget by $225,694 mostly because it under estimated insurance costs.

“That could result in savings to the Board,” Marini said.

It also requires the school board to provide the city with budgetary and financial information as well as implement a shared computerized platform with the city.

Cooperation and communication between the two sides broke down in early 2017 after the Board of Aldermen removed $600,000 from the already-approved school board budget. They did so claiming the board received more than expected from the state. The school board sued the city claiming the removal violated state law preventing approved budgets from being reduced.

In a related matter the Aldermen voted to table the school board’s request for $20,000 to pay for a feasibility study on a request for a new Middle School. The school expected to cost around $37 million would be funded with 66.5 percent paid by the state and the rest about $11.7 million paid by the city. The Aldermen asked Assistant Superintendent of Schools Joseph DiBacco to provide additional information during the March meeting.

In the meantime, it is expected that Marini, Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director and grants writer and possibly Richard Bshara, the retiring comptroller will meet with DiBacco, who will become superintendent of schools on July 1 replacing Carol Merlone who is retiring and Bobby Evans, the director of facilities for the school system.

One of the concerns brought up by Aldermen Lorie Vaccaro and Joseph Jaumann, who are also members of the Ansonia-Derby School Regionalization Study committee is that that committee is expected to release a report on regionalization in October. Additionally it was pointed that several members of the state legislature have introduced bills requiring regionalization of small school districts. Combined Ansonia and Derby educates about 3,600 students in their eight total schools.

Additionally a longtime city official believes the required approach would be to first take the Middle School request to a School Building Committee which would then make a recommendation to the Aldermen. Under the charter, a mayor can appoint a 12-member committee which would include three members each from the Board of Aldermen, Board of Education and Board of Apportionment and Taxation and three members from the general public.