NORWALK, Conn. Aid from the state for Norwalk's schools has been slashed by $72,000 despite the increase in Education Cost Sharing funding that was announced last week , according to a trio of Republican legislators from Norwalk.
"A provision to preserve a $650,000 Priority School District grant was eliminated in the all-inclusive 163-page education bill," said a statement from the office of state Rep. Larry Cafero. In the statement, Cafero, Gail Lavielle and Terrie Wood criticize Gov. Dannel Malloy for "singling out Norwalk by slashing school aid $72,000, and, in the process, breaking his promise not to cut education aid in his revised budget for any municipality."
Six lines in previous budgets that specifically reference Norwalk, the sixth-largest city in the state, were deleted from the budget Malloy released Feb. 8, the statement said. Although Norwalk will receive an additional $577,000 in cost-sharing funds under the revised formula, a 5.72 percent hike, the loss of the $650,000 grant results in a net loss of $72,000.
"The grant was initiated five years ago during budget negotiations when education funds were being distributed to towns and cities," the statement says. But Juliet Manalan, Malloy's press secretary, disputed that version of events. "It was a grant that (Cafero) had put into legislation in 2007, he worked out a special deal with Gov. (Jodi) Rell, that the sixth-largest community in Connecticut would get this grant. It was essentially an earmark for Norwalk. It's not part of ECS funding. ECS will still grant Norwalk over $577,000 additional compared to what they had the year before."
No other community in Connecticut got money under this grant, she said. "Gov. Malloy promised that no town or city would receive less school money under his budget proposal and that is clearly not the case," Cafero said in the statement. "For whatever reason, Norwalk is the only municipality in Connecticut that gets penalized under the governor's plan. The Norwalk delegation members will work together, Republicans and Democrats, to correct this mistake.''
But Manalan said, "The money that Rep. Cafero is talking about is not ECS money. ... It's a separate issue."
Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy's senior communications adviser, also responded to the allegation, saying in a statement, "The governor kept his word; not one town including Norwalk will lose ECS funding next year. And the districts where kids need the most help, including Norwalk, will see more funding. The provision Rep. Cafero is referring to came about as part of a backroom budget deal he cut with Gov. Rell. As a result of that deal, he was promised that Norwalk would be treated differently than the other 168 cities and towns. What he promised in return is a question you'll have to ask him."
Cafero's office did not respond to a request for a response to Occhiogrosso's statement.Cafero said in the statement that he has had discussions with each member of the delegation and will be working with city and school officials in Norwalk on the issue as well.
"The citizens of Connecticut should be able to take the hold harmless provision for ECS allocations in good faith," Lavielle said in the statement. "I know that Norwalk's residents would not appreciate having their city be the only exception. I look forward to working together with our entire delegation to keep Norwalk's ECS funding from being diminished."
Wood is quoted as saying, "The governor needs to honor his commitment not to cut school aid in his budget revision." The legislators promised to fight for the funds.
"Whether by design or simply an oversight, the budget eliminates the $650,000 grant that was negotiated by Republicans, Democrats and the governor's office five years ago," Cafero said in the statement. "In either case, we will work to restore this grant that was dedicated to address educational issues in Norwalk."
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