The state that funds most city school expenses has no budget. Meanwhile, school officials have operated on city-budgeted cash to stay afloat. But that dough runs out next week. What to do? Contact state budget chief Ben Barnes who had served as finance director of city schools before his appointment as director of the Office of Policy and Management in 2011.
Schools are precariously close to becoming a casualty of the state budget mess in Hartford. Governor Dan Malloy has been operating state finances through executives orders because state lawmakers and Malloy have failed to agree on a spending plan that should have started July 1.
A letter on Monday from city budget director Nestor Nkwo to Superintendent of Schools Aresta Johnson and Chief Financial Officer Marlene Siegel paints a sobering portrait of the inaction in Hartford.
“In its own FY 2017-2018 annual operating budget, the City of Bridgeport appropriated approximately $138,431,495 for the Board of Education expenses to be funded by the State–none of which has been received to date.
“In addition, the City appropriated approximately $63,500,000 of City general funds to the Board for FY 2017-2018. To date, the Board has expended approximately $48,700,000 from the City’s allocation.”
That leaves approximately $14,800,000 available from city funds, according to Nestor that “will be depleted on or about September 31, 2017. In the event that the State does not remit State funds for Board expenses, the City will not have funds to pay any additional Board expenditures.”
Nkwo advised them to contact the Governor’s Office.
That’s what Johnson did and Barnes notified her in an email “Please be assured that the state intends to send out 25 percent of the executive order education funding to municipalities early next week. While this will not resolve all the troubling issues raised by the letter, it should provide the city with ample cash to maintain ongoing support to the board both for now and ultimately through the year in the event that the state budget impasse continues.”
Democrats in Hartford with a fragile majority in the House and an 18-18 split with Republicans have failed to pass a budget. Last week a Republican-backed budget passed with a handful of Democrats supporting it. Malloy has pledged to veto the budget asserting it guts some essential programs.