This will be a first and the public can call in to speak.
Virtual public hearings will be conducted Thursday 7 p.m. by the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee regarding the Board of Education and Library Department budgets.
The Public Hearings will be by Zoom/Teleconference for committee members, but the public may dial in to this meeting by calling the following conference line and then entering the conference code:
Dial-In Number: (929) 436 2866
Meeting ID: 965 268 353
How the public testimony will work out during this virtual hearing is unclear. Call in and get in line.
School board Finance Chair Joe Sokolovic shares his remarks in advance:
My name is Joseph Sokolovic. I am a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, and the current chair of its finance committee. I would like to begin by thanking Committee Chairs Scott Burns, and Michael DeFilippo for allowing me this opportunity to speak before the committee this evening, and the entire city council for its hard work and consideration, especially during these trying times. It is especially important during this pandemic, which has highlighted the damaging disparities in educational opportunities due to the chronic local underfunding by the city of Bridgeport.
First, a little recent background for those of you new to the city council or those of you who are returning after a brief hiatus. The 2019/2020 budget cycle left the city grossly underfunded yet again. The city share of approximately $66.8 million, which translates to approximately $3233 per student, is the lowest local amount per student in the entire state of Connecticut! This amount, $66.8 million, was inadequate to fund the operating needs of our public schools, much less bring back any of the over 243 positions lost, such as kindergarten paraprofessionals, home school coordinators, math and reading coaches, guidance counselors and security to name a few.
In this year’s budget the mayor has offered A $2 million dollar addition to the MBR! Quite exciting until you think back to last year’s budget. Last fiscal year, as I have previously mentioned, the BPS received $66.8 million locked into the MBR. This led to discussions on closing schools and an impending cut to bus services. Then in an election year miracle, Mayor Ganim “found $1.2 million”; these 1.2 million dollars were not added to last year’s MBR, instead these monies were funneled through the lighthouse budget. So, the Mayor is only Proposing an $800,00 increase over last year’s funding. This is no way to finance a school system, we need a steady reliable funding stream. This $1.2 million has now been removed from the lighthouse budget, making it look like light house took a cut of $924,700 when in fact they are receiving an increase of $280,000 over the 2019 actual budget. Perhaps this is worthy of a second look by the committee for redistribution to the school budget. It seems quite perplexing that lighthouse receive a 20% boost to its budget at this time.
The city council must find additional monies for our children. We, as a city must step up at least as much as the city of Waterbury. Looking at the per pupil expenditures, provided to you by Ms. Siegel, does not show the whole picture. Waterbury spends $16,048 in total per pupil while Bridgeport spends only $14,697 per pupil, while this looks bad on its surface, looking even deeper it is much worse. Waterbury Public Schools receive tens of millions of dollars less from the state than does Bridgeport Public Schools. How is that possible that Waterbury Schools spend more per pupil than Bridgeport? When they have lower per capita income and smaller grand list? It is so simple yet it’s sad. Waterbury contributes about $106 million dollars in local tax dollars or $5,585 per student, while Bridgeport only contributes about $66.8 million for about 1,000 less students or $3,233 per student! A difference of $2,252 per student. If the city of Bridgeport funded its public schools at the same level as Waterbury, it would mean an increase of about $45.3 million enough to reverse every cut made over the last 4 years with some leftover to add services!
So I ask you, the city council, to realize that education is the foundation of every great city, the first place families and businesses look to when deciding to relocate. We can spend millions of dollars in capital funds to build tiger habitats and amphitheaters and continue to reduce the amount available in the operating budget as we repay these bonds with interest. This is a waste of money, yes, these venues may get people to come visit, but they will not stay, they won’t want to raise a family or move their companies to a city where the very foundation is crumbling. So please be bold and find the money to cover the entire $9.5 million dollar deficit. Our city is slowly dying and needs to rebuild from the ground up.
Bridgeport Board of Education
Sorry this was also my testimony at today’s city council B&A meeting. I’m sorry I did not make it clear in the email. It will also be my testimony at tomorrow’s public hearing as well. May add a thing or two.