Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Follow the Money

The State Capitol is abuzz with stories about money.  Lots of money.  This article by Don Stacom of the Courant states,

The $30 million is relatively small change in a state that gives more than $2.7 billion a year to towns and cities. But for many small towns, it's a big share of their state aid. They don't get the hundreds of millions in school aid and social services grants that go to big and mid-sized cities, and road maintenance is one of their biggest expenses.

"It's a big part of a small town's budget," Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams said Monday. "We're getting $135,000 — for a small town, that's a decent sum."
WOW!  Thirty million dollars to repair roads.  But what's that other number? HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in school aid and social services grants!  Hundreds of millions.  That's a serious chunk of change for a small number of CT large cities.

One would think AFTER DECADES of this kind of spending - BILLIONS of tax dollars that we could safely say schools in urban CT areas are well-funded.  I guess not.

In a different article by Christopher Keating we find that the burbs and small towns are so broke that Mayors Asking for a Regional Sales Tax.

Similar retail tax plans have failed in the past when the proposals would have given the communities with the malls all of the money. Under the latest plan, the money would be shared by multiple communities through the regional planning organizations. In Hartford, that would be the Capitol Region Council of Governments, which has 29 towns as members.

During a public hearing Monday, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and mayors pushed the concept in front of the legislature's tax-writing finance committee. Lobbyist Gian-Carl Casa said the towns need new solutions and new approaches at a time when municipalities can no longer rely on the cash-strapped state to give them additional aid. Nationally, 23 states allow cities and towns to levy sales taxes, and Connecticut's towns need the same authority, he said.

"They need the tools to do it themselves," Casa said. "We think its time has come."

With the state's budget woes expected to increase in the 2012 fiscal year, Casa said the state needs to try new ideas that would change the Land of Steady Habits.

"The need for revenue diversity is acute," Casa said. "What you're hearing from local officials is really a cry for help."

But House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk rejected the idea, saying that the state and towns should be thinking about cutting spending before raising revenue. One idea would be to install a 5 percent statewide sales tax and then allow the 1 percent municipal tax to keep the overall rate at the current 6 percent.

"It's more taxes to the general public," Cafero said of the proposal. "Everything is an add-on in this place. We don't need extra taxes now. I want to hear them talking about cutting spending."

In the same way, CBIA — the Connecticut Business and Industry Association — is lobbying against the bill at the state Capitol.

"You're creating numerous new jurisdictions" for sales taxes, said Eric George, a CBIA lobbyist. "Connecticut is a difficult state to do business in now. This is not going to help. This just isn't the right answer. The first thing you need to do is create more efficiencies."

Mayors and first selectmen throughout the state, however, say they have been cutting spending for years to minimize local property tax increases. Some mayors have testified that they have cut more from their budgets — as a percentage — than the legislature has cut from the state budget in Hartford.
Again, what we're hearing is more taxes that will do nothing to benefit Region 19.  No, this is throwing more HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS at the same places who've already squandered BILLIONS.

Oh, well - CT politics.  Right?  Right.

And I've already documented how corrupt the federal funding of schooling is here and here.  The politicians at the State Department of Education know it's a scam but its one that pays very well.

To top it off, United Technologies let the cat out of the bag by declaring the State is too expensive to do business in. In an article called, UTC Chief Financial Officer: Connecticut Too Expensive To Do Work, Eric Gershon of the Courant reported,
Connecticut's biggest private employer is determined to do more of its work outside its home state and other "high-cost" locations, top executives said Friday at an investors' conference in New York.

"Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost," United Technologies Corp.'s chief financial officer, Gregory Hayes, told Wall Street investment analysts — paraphrasing previous remarks by another UTC executive, Jeff Pino, president of Sikorsky Aircraft.

"Even if work has to stay in the U.S., there are opportunities to reduce cost by moving out of those high-cost locations," Hayes said.
Nowhere in the article was the ever present CBIA trotted out to lecture CT residents that it is the public school's fault for all things economically failing. NO UTC finally figured it out. It's too expensive. Good for them. Even a broken clock is right once in a while.

So what else is the State concerned about?  School "reform" 'options".  Grace E. Merritt elaborates in the Courant;

Hundreds showed up for legislative hearings on a dozen major school reform proposals Monday that would significantly change the way public schools operate, from the way teachers are evaluated to parents' ability to shut down failing schools.

Students, advocates and others filled four overflow rooms to listen to 62 people testify on the bills. Several speakers spoke in favor of changing the way charter schools are funded. Currently the state pays $9,300 to charter schools for each student who attends — significantly less than the nearly $14,000 average paid to a traditional public school.

Francheska Calderon, a senior at Amistad-Elm City High School, credited her charter school with changing her from an angry girl worried about how others saw her to a student focused on achievement. She said that 100 percent of her senior class has been accepted to a four-year college.

"Charter schools deserve to be equally funded, not just 75 percent of what traditional public school students are given," Calderon said.

Advocates, such as the ConnCAN education reform group, said the state pays twice for the same charter school student: once to the local school system for a student that the system no longer educates, and once to the charter school.

The proposal calls for school systems to pay for their students who attend charter schools, a formula that would require towns to pay thousands, even millions more to cover charter costs.

Another bill calls for teacher performance evaluations to be tied to how well students perform in school.

The bill calls for building a database that would track students through college. Evaluators would look at how well students performs to determine how effective the teacher is.

The Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said it favors solid, research-based reforms but said that the proposed system focuses too narrowly on test scores and might "scapegoat teachers for society's ills." It would penalize teachers who, for example, have a gift for motivating low-achieving or difficult students, they said.

Another major item was the so-called "Parent Trigger" legislation, which would allow 51 percent or more of parents from a school that has failed to make progress for three consecutive years to petition for intervention. During the hearing, many testified that they felt parents have no say and have had to watch their children attend failing schools, sometimes for generations.

Yeah, the charter school students look to be underfunded IFF you ignore the fact that charter schools serve the most capable and not the least capable students. The students with disabilities, handicaps, psychological problems, and so on [in other words the most expensive to service] are left to the public schools who are then attacked for receiving more funds. Sweet argument for the charter profiteers. Equal funding equals big profits on low maintenance students.

The bottom line for Region 19 is that our towns will continue to be underfunded as the State sinks deeper in debt and buries us in higher taxes. In Hartford, they will spend millions following the expert advice of dropouts and spineless politicians playing Washington's game of spending money to increase the cost of education.

An I the only one tired of this recipe?


Abe said...

Go Norwalk! :)

I remember when CT gave the cities & towns a bunch of aid with the goal of raising teacher salaries. The salaries went up, and the next time the state had a budget crunch the aid disappeared. That left the cities & towns to cover the new, higher costs directly.

Raising salaries could originally have been accompanied by changes in procedures and work rules to save some money at the same time, but that opportunity was lost.

Mr. Carlson said...

So glad I found this site. I especially like how ConnCan is advocating for the undemocratic removal of a democratically elected school board. I commented on this over on my blog.