Budget dispute may force city to close schools early
ANSONIA, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut city’s board of education is warning its schools may have to close nearly two weeks early, saying it does not have the cash to meet payroll because of city budget cuts.
Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti said Tuesday the threat to close schools is a bullying tactic and the district has all the resources it needs to continue operating in this city of 20,000 people outside New Haven.
“I’m staying the course,” Cassetti, a Republican, said in an interview.
At issue is $600,000 the city cut from the school board’s $32 million budget, prompting a lawsuit against the city alleging it did not provide statutorily required funding. Cassetti said the city offered to restore the funding if the state did not make up the difference, but the district ultimately received more than $1 million in unanticipated state grants.
Cassetti said he’s determined to keep taxes down in his financially distressed city where many residents live on fixed incomes.
“They wanted more because the more you give them, you have to give it to them the next year,” he said.
In a letter last week to Connecticut’s education commissioner, an attorney for the school board said it was about $500,000 short of meeting payroll obligations and would have to close schools as soon as Wednesday. School officials have said the state money can only be applied to certain expenses.
“The Board cannot provide its current education program at this level of funding,” attorney Frederick Dorsey wrote.
A spokesman for the state education department said if Ansonia ends the school year early, it would be in violation of a state requirement to have at least 180 days of instruction. He said it would be up to state education officials to determine appropriate next steps.