Ansonia Board of Ed battles with city over funding

ANSONIA -- A battle between the City of Ansonia and its Board of Education could end up in court. The BOE says the city was legally out of line in January when it took back $600,000 from the current 2017-2018 school budget.

“They cannot take the money back,” said Ansonia Schools Superintendent Dr. Carol Merlone.

Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti said the city overbudgeted and accidentally overpaid the BOE. “We had given them more money, and if they had gotten more money from the state, we would be able to get the $600,000 back,” explained Cassetti. “The state did give them the money, so we got the $600,000 back.”

The State Education Department, however, disagreed. A letter from the department to the district released Wednesday reads in part, “The Board of Aldermen’s actions of reducing by $600,000 the amount of funds initially appropriated by the Board of Education was unlawful.”

We asked Cassetti about the BOE’s claims that once you allocate the money, you can’t take it back. In response, Cassetti said: “That’s true, that’s true. But there are other facets that are involved in this.”

Cassetti said those other facets include Ansonia’s status as an alliance city, meaning it is one of Connecticut’s lowest-performing districts. The BOE’s attorney said this means school funding absolutely cannot be cut. Cassetti questions if the alliance grant status still stands, and said the city’s attorneys are looking into it. Cassetti said he wants to have a good relationship with the BOE.

Merlone, meantime, said she will continue to advocate for the district’s children. “I’ve been here to fight for those children,” said Merlone. “I’m their voice, and I won’t stop until they get what they deserve.”

If the BOE and city don’t soon reach an agreement, the BOE said it will move forward with legal action.