AP NEWS

State will allow Ansonia school funding deal

March 7, 2019

HARTFORD — The state has agreed to drop without prejudice a case against the City of Ansonia now that a year-long school funding dispute has ended in a deal that the state says complies with school funding laws.

State Board of Education members made it clear Wednesday, however, the decision will be revisited in April if the $800,000 the city has promised local educators doesn’t show up by then in Ansonia Public Schools coffers.

Some members also suggested that while the settlement language satisfies one state law it may cross another when it comes to who controls local school spending.

“They are completely over the line,” State Board member Donald Harris said of the Ansonia Board of Aldermen. State law gives school boards, not city officials, control over how school dollars are spent.

City and school officials in Ansonia have been at odds over the amount of the city’s contribution to its schools since the 2017-18 school year. The matter went to court and the state became involved when it determined the city was not meeting its minimum budget requirement under state law.

A tentative settlement was reached last month but the state forced changes that will give Ansonia Public Schools more next year from the city than it will get this year. The deal now calls for $800,000 additional from the city in the 2018-19 school year, bringing the city’s contribution to $32,060,484. In 2019-20, the city contribution will increase to $32,110,484 — or $850,000 above this year’s original appropriation.

In exchange, several things have to happen. The Superior Court judge hearing the case has to sign off on the deal. Then the school district has to collaborate with the city on a shared integrated financial system, be open to the city’s insurance broker analyzing the district’s plan, and provide the city with five years of detail financial information.

The city wants details on budgets, budget transfers, special education costs and the students receiving them. Not — the state was assured — the actual identities of the students but just numbers on students being served and where.

It was the extensive financial document request that piqued the interest of state board members.

“Why ask all these questions about special education?” Harris asked.

Joseph Vrabely Jr., another board member, said it seemed to him a line was being crossed.

“What is it that you are after?” Board Chairman Allan Taylor asked.

Fred Dorsey, an attorney for the Ansonia School board, maintained all the information the city is asking for has already been provided.

John Marini, corporate council for Ansonia, said city officials disagree and suggested the request comes from a long-standing frustration that city officials were not getting the information they need to see how school dollars are being spent.

“It was not sufficient in painting an accurate financial picture,” Marini said, adding without all the facts and figures on the table, the city feels it is budgeting in the dark.

Other state board members raised concerns about the city delaying the transfer for so long the district won’t have time to spend it.

Dorsey, the board’s attorney, said he doesn’t anticipate that happening.

Ralph Urban, an assistant state attorney general, assured the board it can revisit the issue next month, if the agreement is not fully executed.