Bridgeport board wants more from city

Bridgeport board wants more from city

Posted in the Trumbull Forum


Bridgeport, CT

#1 Nov 17, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- Hopelessly divided on most issues, the city school board has found common ground when it comes to feeling shortchanged by the city.

On Nov. 25, when it meets for the last time before a new board is seated, the current board expects to pass a resolution and fire off a letter to the mayor and City Council demanding they make good on the $3.28 million in additional school funding due under the state's Minimum Budget Requirement law.

According to the state, the city should be contributing $58.9 million toward the school district's 2013-14 operating budget, but instead the council passed a budget of $55.6 million to educate city school children.

Even the district's $231.7 million operating budget for 2013-14 does not factor in the full MBR. Instead, it counts on $58 million from the city and $173.7 million from the state. A fully funded MBR would give Bridgeport public schools $840,116 beyond their current budget.

Even so, the district wants its money.

"We should not accept anything less than cash, not in-kind services, " said Maria Pereira, a departing board member. "If the mayor does give it to us, I would urge the new board to file legal action."

Soon-departing Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas said numerous conversations have been had with the mayor, the commissioner of education and others, trying to get the funds. Letters and emails have been written.

In a written statement this week, Mayor Bill Finch said negotiations with the state are ongoing.

"All parties are working together on this issue and remain incredibly focused on coming to a resolution that satisfies all sides," Finch said. "We are hopeful that a positive resolution to this issue will be achieved soon."

Vallas told the school board last week that so far, the city seems to have identified an additional $900,000 that it can contribute to the district, although he said he does not have that in writing. Vallas said the state also gave the district $840,000 more than it had budgeted. And although Vallas said he wants and still anticipates a full $3.2 million from the city, contingency plans are being developed because he said he can't let the budget fall into the red, or start handing out pink slips.

Pereira said extra money from the state has nothing to do with the city meeting the so-called MBR. Board member Bobby Simmons and Chairman Kenneth Moales both urged the panel to focus on the amount owed, not on what would be done if it is not paid.

If nothing else, Moales said, the resolution and letter will give the new school board, which is to be sworn in on Dec. 9, a starting point to challenge the issue in the courts.

Jacqueline Kelleher, the board vice chairwoman, called the situation unacceptable. But Thomas Mulligan, a departing board member, preferred to have the superintendent, while he is still here, continue to negotiate with the mayor.

Mulligan also asked the board to come up with suggestions about where the city can find the additional funds.

"The city is broke," he said. "There just isn't $3.2 million to be had."

Mulligan was on the losing side of a 7-2 vote that approved drafting the letter. Leticia Colon, another departing board members, also opposed writing the letter.

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