Town Takes Mid Year ECS Hit
WETHERSFIELD - The town of Wethersfield will see $152,000 less in Education Cost Sharing (ECS) revenue than what was anticipated when the Town Council approved its 2016-2017 fiscal year budget back in the spring.

       The Governor-implemented adjustment-announced last week-was prompted by the Office of Policy Management’s (OPM) need to find $20 million in Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies (MORE) savings it had budgeted for the fiscal year, according to a letter sent to legislators by OPM Secretary Benjamin Barnes.

       For Wethersfield, that means a 1.6 percent reduction in the $9.5 million ECS projection it had based its school budget planning on.

       “We’re bracing for more hits [in the coming state budget session], but at least we can plan for it,” said Mayor Paul Montinieri over the phone Thursday. “It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s a lot more difficult to do that now.”

       With the Board of Education already facing a special education and health benefit cost-driven $255,000 expenditure overage, the Council will have to find funding from other areas to cover the difference, Montinieri said. He held off on going into specifics, saying that he’d rather wait for the Board to assess its own needs and present its priorities to the Council.

       “There’s no positive narrative in that,” he said. “To come in and January and say ‘you’re not going to get as much money as we said-as what you based your budget on-is a failure.”

       State Representative Russ Morin said that while it doesn’t represent “a huge drop” in ECS aid, “any drop in education funding is a cause for concern.”

       The latest adjustment comes as a result of increased discretion given to the Governor to implement cuts without legislative approval-a portion of the budget deal passed last year-Morin said.

       “I chose to vote against it for a lot of reasons, and that was one of them,” Morin said.

       Montinieri hopes that municipalities could at least get some relief from unfunded mandates in light of the reduced ECS grant.

       “You need to give us more flexibility,” he said. “You can’t have both ends. That’s absolutely something we’ll have to have a dialogue on.”