Officials are hoping they can convince the state to restore just over $280,000 in transportation revenues slashed under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget.
The loss of state funding has left a significant revenue hole in Superintendent Susan Viccaro's $35.58 million 2013-2014 budget proposal which is currently under review by the Board of Education.
Although Malloy promised his budget would hold cities and towns harmless by offsetting revenue losses with additional funding, regional school districts have been forced to swallow cuts to their transportation revenues without receiving any additional funding.
District 13 Business Manager Ronald Melnik, who met recently with Ben Barnes, Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary, called the decision "an oversight"
"There was an acknowledgement that this maybe fell through the cracks," Melnik said at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting. He was joined at the meeting with Barnes by Superintendent Susan Viccaro and Durham First Selectman Laura Francis.
Today, Francis is scheduled to testify at an Appropriations Forum in Hartford on behalf of the school district in an attempt to bring the money back to Durham and Middlefield.
School officials anticipated receiving $282,257 in transportation revenues, as part of its share of a $25 million state transportation fund. But under Malloy's budget proposal the fund has been reduced to a $5 million grant which would require school districts to apply for and meet specific criteria in order to receive.
"If that had not occurred, if we had the $282,257 back, our net [budget] number would be [a] 3.56 [percent increase]," Melnik said.
This week, the board asked administrators to reduce Viccaro's budget by nearly the same amount in order to reduce the overall increase.
Meanwhile, Viccaro encouraged board members to reach out local legislators to see what could be done to restore the transportation money. She said the school district is also looking into applying for the grant.
"We have to go on the premise that the money is not in the budget," Viccaro said. "But I think that we want to reach out and talk to as many folks at the state level as we can."
Viccaro said the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, which represents all 19 regional school districts in Connecticut, planned to meet with Barnes this week to discuss the matter.
"There's so many unfunded mandates, there's so many things that we have to do for the state for them just to take money away arbitrarily, perhaps even as just an oversight, we can not allow that to happen," board chairman Kerrie Flanagan said. "Trying to make up $282,000 in this budget because of an oversight is criminal."
Viccaro also encouraged residents to write to their legislators about the issue.
During the meeting with Barnes, she said she stressed a number of ways in which Durham and Middlefield have regionalized efforts in order to save money.
"We really wanted to emphasize that and say that the state is talking about this regionalization, we're already doing it," she said.
Melnik said it was unlikely that grant money would be distributed before the budget is voted on in May.