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Special master's action to halt consolidation effort in New London criticized

New London - A day after the school district's special master put on hold the planned consolidation of the school and city finance departments, City Council President Michael Passero said he doesn't agree that Steven Adamowski has the authority to delay the merger.

Adamowski announced his plan to put the consolidation on hold at Monday's Board of Education meeting. Passero said Tuesday he wasn't aware Adamowski's announcement was going to happen.

"The City Council found out about that when he told it to the public last night at the school board meeting. He has not sat down to hear the City Council's reasons for doing what they did with the budget," Passero said. "So how he can sit there and dictate without hearing the other side of the story is beyond me."

As the district's special master appointed by the state, Adamowski has the authority to manage and allocate any federal, state and local education funds coming to the district.

"I am allocating the cost of the business office from the budget. ... It's a budget allocation decision," Adamowski said Tuesday. "Rather than dismissing the five or so staff members and the business administrator, they would be staying on, and funds would be allocated for me to retain that function."

He said the consolidation was "all part of a much larger, serious issue that the state board took into consideration when appointing me."

In April, the school board voted against its own Finance Committee's recommendation to not approve the consolidation. Nearly a month later, a motion to rescind the board's prior approval of the consolidation failed 4-2. The two who dissented in both board votes were Chairman William Morse and board member Elizabeth Garcia Gonzalez.

"I was stunned to find that the board voted on this without having a single piece of paper in front of them. It's just not good planning, and this relates to a much larger picture, personnel and curriculum, which is where the board also has statutory obligations," Adamowski said.

The City Council's Finance Committee endorsed the consolidation, which moved forward with the adoption of the 2012-13 city budget.

Passero said that when the Finance Committee of the City Council agreed to consolidate with the district, that the council freed up $500,000 by transferring the personnel in that office to the city finance department, so they would all be working under one finance director.

"The City Council made a genuine effort to free up city money for the education of our children. We put the dollars towards educating our children. For council and Board of Education members to support that, it took political courage," Passero said.

However, Adamowski said that the statutory obligations the school board has to provide are much deeper.

"This is not a situation where the board can just take over the city. It's not a situation where the city can take over the board," he said. "The only way this can be done is through a joint situation where a finance director would report to the mayor and the superintendent. This cannot be done overnight as a political action."

Ideally, if the consolidation moves forward, Adamowski said the two departments would first have to act under the same financial software system and then merge.


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