Ansonia schools won’t close Wednesday due to budget issues

ANSONIA — A vote Tuesday resulted in keeping Ansonia schools open until next week where a court hearing is expected to take place.

An attorney for the board says it will be half a million dollars short of what it needs to meet payroll obligations because of budget cuts imposed by the city.

The attorney informed the state Department of Education a week ago that without that money, the board will have to close schools by June 6 due to insolvency. That would leave the district in danger of not meeting a state requirement for at least 180 days of instruction.

City leaders have said it was the late state budget that forced Ansonia to revise its own spending plan for school expenses earlier this year.

“First of all, I would like everyone to know, especially you, Mr. mayor, that this is not a bluff,” said the Superintendents”, Carol Merlone

“The Board of Education is mismanaged,” responded Mayor David Cassetti. “It starts at the top. I asked them ‘give me your books. Let me look at your books.’ 'No. You have no right to look at them'.”

In a letter to the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education, the Ansonia schools attorney said  “the city has failed to reinstate the $600,000 unlawfully taken from the board’s 2017-2018 budget appropriation” of nearly $32 million.

“We already told them that we would give them the $600,000,” said Cassetti. “But, if they got the Alliance grant, for $1.4 million, we’d get that back.”

The Alliance Grant was one of two unexpected state grants the Ansonia BOE was awarded last fall, totaling $1.8 million.

“Back in October, the Board of Alderman, the governing body of the City of Ansonia, approved the budget for $31.8 million. They approved it,” emphasized Janessa Bennett, a parent, the administrator for the Ansonia Public Schools Parent Coalition, which is on Facebook.

In her opinion, and that of the BOE, the city should honor that.  But, the state legislature passed a law in June 2017, which the city is interpreting as permission to take back funds because the state came through with unexpected grants.

“Regardless of who’s fault it is, whatever is going on, there’s a $600,000 sinkhole,” said Bennett, whose daughter is due to enter kindergarten in the fall.

A state law,called the "Minimum Budget Requirement", mandates that when a municipality awards a Board of Education a certain amount of money, they cannot offer less in the next budget year.

A public hearing Tuesday night at Ansonia High School saw the auditorium nearly filled to capacity with concerned parents and students. "Nobody wants to compromise," said Ansonia mom Rose Leggo. "Nobody wants to discuss. They just want to fight, and it's just not right."

Ansonia Board of Education Attorney Frederick Dorsey said they will be in Derby Superior Court on Tuesday, June 12, and will then determine if school will stay open for the remainder of the year.