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Municipalities Advance First Salvo Over MBR

About half a billion – that’s b as in billion – is at stake as state officials and municipal officials worry about who will make up the local deficits created when federal stimulus funds expire this year.

CEA is lobbying Governor Dannel Malloy and state legislators to have the State of Connecticut make up the $540 million hole (created by the loss of federal funds) in the biennial budget that will be decided in the legislative session now underway.

But nothing is for certain in cash-strapped times, and municipalities are calling for the abolition of the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR). The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) is the lobbying group working vigorously for the abolition.  CCM claims the MBR goes against fundamental democracy – it disenfranchises taxpayers from controlling 70 percent of their local budgets.

The MBR essentially ensures that each school district gets a budget that’s at least as big as the previous year’s.

CEA views the MBR as protecting schools from municipal politicians whose first priority is not quality local public schools.  That’s why CEA and its members will be contacting lawmakers to tell them to protect the MBR requirement.

Clearly, local schools deserve the minimum that’s passed on from the state.  That’s why it’s called the minimum requirement.  School standards have never been higher.  It’s no time to cut resources to schools.  It’s no time to endanger academic programs and drive class sizes even higher.  This is the stuff nightmares are made of.  Don’t you agree?

3 Comments
  1. Kristen Harmeling #

    Repealing the MBR would be catastrophic in many CT towns. The argument that it stifles creativity in achieving greater efficiency ignores the fact that just like our household budgets, it costs more money each year to maintain the same level of “services.” In Seymour, where I am a taxpayer, a parent and a member of our Board of Finance, our BOE has received a zero percent increase in the past two budget cycles and the BOE has only received its requested level services budget once in the past seven years. In effect, they have seen their budget cut nearly every year as the costs of providing services increases. Each and every year the BOE and administration has pulled out the stops to cut non-essentials, keep essentials, and provide our kids with a quality education. There is nothing left to cut.
    The CCM argues that the MBR undercuts democracy – this is a mass overstatement – democracy does not imply that voters have a right to gut our educational system…even when voters are struggling to make ends meet and are rightly fed up and angry with the state of our government and our economy.
    I would very much like to see CCM back up the statement (I’m paraphrasing) that “for most municipalities, the MBR is not at issue since budgets adequately address the needs of the school system.” Look at Seymour, Naugatuck, New Britain, Watertown, just to name a few. Without the protection the MBR provides, I cannot imagine what would happen. Voters are angry, they have every right to be, but anger needs to be placed at the state level for never having properly funded the educational system. It would awful if towns had to fill the gap that federal and state grants may leave this year….but allowing a community to cripple its educational system would be even more awful.
    Children only have one chance at a good education – we can’t take that away from them, even when it means we, the grown-ups, need to sacrifice even more. Children (and public safety) must come first, and right now, the MBR is the only protection our children have.

    January 23, 2011
  2. Michael Freeman #

    As the article states – the MBR is a minimum spending amount. This IS Ct. and we need to assure that our students and schools receive the monies necessary to advance students’ education. Weakening and/or eliminating the MBR will allow local school districts to abdicate their responsibility towards educating our student population. Local taxpayers often vote on school finance issues with little thought towards the long- term effect of saving a dollar. Unfortunately and unfairly, they are subsequently only too willing to blame educators when test scores, course offerings, etc., are not the optimum that they somehow expect.

    January 18, 2011
  3. Jim Finley #

    The State’s share of k-12 public education costs is in steep decline, now less than 38%. That means that overburdened property taxpayers and local governments have to pick up the funding slack. That’s not fair, especially when the State mandates that towns cannot reduce their LOCAL-funded (i.e. property tax-funded) contribution to local schools from year-to-year, even if cost-savings can be found. All STATE aid for education should be spent on education–CCM agrees with that. But the MBR allows the State to get away without paying its fair share of education costs by forcing property taxpayers to pick up the slack. It’s not fair.

    January 8, 2011

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