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Stonington to discuss how to deal with new state aid cut

Stonington — The Board of Finance is expected Wednesday night to begin discussions about how to deal with the just-announced $252,000 cut in state aid that comes halfway through the town’s 2016-17 budget year.

The town learned late last week that it would be receiving $143,825 less in state education aid and $109,735 less in local capital improvement funds. The cuts come eight months after residents here approved the annual budget based in part on revenue it expected to receive from the state.

Bryan Bentz, who chairs the Board of Finance, which meets at 7:15 p.m. at the police station, said he expected the board will add discussion of the cuts to its agenda.

“Given the state of Connecticut, this was not unexpected,” he said. “The uncertainty, though, is a problem going forward. If we knew what the number would be next year, we could plan for it.”

Superintendent of Schools Van Riley agreed, saying such mid-year cuts are difficult after school officials prepared a conservative budget that considered revenue, “justified every expenditure” and which has “no filler.”

“We already have people hired and bills to pay. It’s hard going into January and make any significant reductions,” he said about the current budget, which ends June 30.

“It’s disappointing to see education keep getting cut by the state,” he added.

The $143,825 cut comes on top of an earlier state education aid cut of $100,000 in the spring, which was reduced from an initial proposed $1 million cut. The total education cuts of almost $250,000 mean that school officials will start the 2017-18 budget process knowing the town will receive at least that much less in education aid than it did two years ago.

The town’s state representative, Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, worked to restore much of the $1 million cut this spring.

Urban, who called the cut "dastardly," said that "unfortunately this is what the future will bring." She pledged to "make all kinds of noise" about the cut in Hartford, but said she is not very optimistic about getting it restored considering other communities are facing much larger reductions than Stonington. She said she plans to focus her efforts on working with other legislators to reform the confusing formula that is used to determine aid so it is fair and easy to understand.

The Board of Finance now has several options to deal with the cuts. It could allocate money from its undesignated fund balance, which is used for emergencies, it could transfer money from unexpended accounts to offset the cut or it could order more budget reductions. It also could employ a combination of the three.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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