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Norwalk Gives Schools Funds To Offset Budget Cuts

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk schools will have an additional $466,000 this year to offset any potential cuts in its budget after the Board of Estimate and Taxation unanimously approved a plan introduced by Mayor Richard Moccia on Monday night.

“It’s not everything that everybody wants, but there are times when you do as much as you can, and you can’t do as much as you’d like to,” Moccia said.

The schools will pay $2.666 million out of next year’s budget and $1.333 million out of the following year’s budget to cover a $4 million shortfall in its health insurance costs.

This is a revision of a plan approved earlier this month that would have allowed the schools to pay $2.2 million of the costs out of next year’s budget.

“I do believe we’ve reached the outer limit of our ability to provide assistance at this time,” BET Chairman Fred Wilms said. He said he liked the plan because it created a balance between providing relief to the Board of Education while not creating a burden for the taxpayers.

Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said he was comfortable with this move, which would give the Norwalk schools more time to pay back the funds. Hamilton spoke with representatives from Moody’s and said the move would not hurt Norwalk’s credit rating. He said he would not recommend extending the payback time any further.

Hamilton also said he would not support taking money from the general fund to cover the deficit. From a ratings standpoint, the most creditworthy way to handle the problem would be to issue a special tax, he said, but that would be “an extraordinary step for the city” and one without precedent.

“Generally speaking, most people would say that a special tax should be reserved for truly catastrophic things, such as if you had tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage from some catastrophic storm.”

Hamilton said the city will be taking steps to prepare for an audit by an outside firm to determine how the deficit was created, what steps could have been taken to prevent it and what Norwalk can do to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

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