Region 16 defers towns’ payments  

REGION 16 — In the absence of a state budget, the Region 16 Board of Education has revised the state education aid payment schedule for Beacon Falls and Prospect.

“We want to work with our towns because we know we’re only as good as the community,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said.

The Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week voted to defer the towns’ first state education aid payments to Jan. 26, 2018.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature failed to approve a two-year budget before the 2017 fiscal year ended June 30. Months into the fiscal year, they still have not come to terms on a budget.

The state is operating under an executive spending plan issued by Malloy. Under the plan, 85 municipalities, including Beacon Falls and Prospect, will get no education equalization payments. Beacon Falls and Prospect stand to lose about $9 million in education aid under the executive order.

The state typically issues the first education aid payments, the largest of which is the Education Cost Sharing grant, to municipalities in October. The region’s budget that was adopted in May anticipates that Beacon Falls and Prospect will receive just over $2.2 million combined in October.

The state aid is then given to the region. Historically, the region has alternated which town has to pay its state aid to the district in October. This year, it’s Prospect that was scheduled to make the October payment.

The school budget anticipates Prospect’s October payment at $1,211,888. The $993,804 Beacon Falls is estimated to receive in the budget wasn’t slated to be paid until December. The figures don’t include the payments made to the region from local tax revenue.

These payments are now due in January under the schedule the board approved last week.

Region 16 Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said the payments were delayed as long as possible to provide some breathing room for the towns. She said deferring the payments won’t leave the school board short-handed for funds right now. However, she added, the board will need the money by February when it has to make bond payments on the recent school building project.

Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik and Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said town and school officials have been discussing the issue. While the decision to defer the payments was expected, Bielik and Chatfield both said they appreciate the move.

In the short term, Bielik said, it’s helpful because the town won’t have to dip into reserves to make the payment in the hopes of receiving the funds from the state at the some point.

The bottom line, Bielik said, has always come down to when the state will have a budget and how it will impact the towns.

“From the town’s perspective, our eyes are squarely on Hartford,” Bielik said.

Chatfield agreed.

“The state’s got to get off their duff,” said Chatfield, adding the state budget issues are putting students and schools in peril.

Local officials don’t believe the state will cut all of the roughly $9 million in education aid to Beacon Falls and Prospect, though they expect some cuts. What the final numbers will be remains a mystery.

Yamin said if cuts are made to education aid “everyone will share in the sacrifice.”

“We will get through this I assure you,” he told the board last week. “One way or the other we will get through this, and we will get through this with Prospect and Beacon Falls.”