School Board Averts Worst Case Scenario in State Budget
WETHERSFIELD - In the November 9 print version of the Rare Reminder, we incorrectly reported a Thursday Town Council special meeting date. The meeting regarding the state aid cut will be held Monday at 6 p.m. We apologize for the error.


       Continuing to defer the filling of two full time positions and one part time will help the district to avoid cut scenarios that impact teachers and programs, Superintendent of Schools Michael Emmett said last week.

       The statement came as town and school officials brace for a $467,000 hit to Education Cost Sharing (ECS) revenue-part of a Connecticut Mirror reported 5 percent reduction to all “major municipal aid grants”. The current Council will hold a post-election special meeting Monday to discuss the impact of the scenario, which Mayor Paul Montinieri said was, while far less than ideal, at least nowhere near the catastrophic $9 million ECS cut promised by Governor Malloy’s executive order.

       “It’s certainly not as bad as it could have been,” Montinieri said over the phone. “I don’t think anybody expected that to bubble to the surface-it was more political leverage than anything else. A $467,000 impact is not attractive, but again, much better.”

       As for Monday’s meeting, Montinieri said that he didn’t think it would be fair to ask a new Council to make decisions regarding a budget issues current members have been following closely for quite some time.

       A few weeks ago, the Council voted to release resident car tax bills-held since June as they waited to see whether the Mill Rate would cap at 32 or 37 Mills-in an effort to ensure that cash flow would not run dry before the end of the year.

       In the event of the executive order, the town would have had to drain its reserve funds to make up any shortfall as well, according to Town Manager Jeff Bridges and Finance Director Mike O’Neil.

       Meanwhile, the Board will begin making plans to phase out of its budget freeze-in place since the summer-but with a spending cap at 70 percent for all line items just in case further state aid cuts come down later in the year.

       “It definitely could have been worse-we were looking at significant cuts, possibly in the millions, and we kept all of our programs, teachers, and sports intact,” Emmett said.

       The two unfilled positions are one administrator, a library assistant, and a part time role. But the district took a hit in the curriculum planning and teacher evaluation area due to deferring administrative hires-Emmett had been waiting on that throughout the length of the budget impasse.

       “I lost a tremendous amount of expertise in the curriculum and instruction office,” Emmett said. “That’s an area were concerned about for sure.”

       The Board drafted several budget reduction scenarios as the town waited to see where Wethersfield landed Montinieri admitted that holding off on implementing any of them posed a bit of a risk no matter which direction the town went, because in the event that a state budget is passed within the next few months, the cuts would be irreversible. But then again, the absence of one come year’s end would create a scenario wherein which these decisions would have to be made with even less notice, he said.

       “I think it turned out to be the prudent choice,” he said. “I’m glad it didn’t turn out as bad as it could have.”