Education Cost Sharing formula is ripe for another lawsuit
If anything, the recent Supreme Court decision clears the deck of subjective educational arguments and leaves only the issue of local taxation as a questionable aspect of Education Cost Sharing. It places full onus on the legislature to arrive at an ECS distribution system IMMEDIATELY that treats all Connecticut towns and taxpayers equitably.
It cannot wait 10 years and be dependent on $400 million of unlikely new revenue as does the current legislative plan.
In 2018 the unfair disproportional distribution of Education Cost Sharing dollars continues. One hundred six towns will get less than 100 percent of their fully funded grants, and 63 will get more than 100 percent. Farmington, Killingworth, Canaan, Woodbridge, Trumbull, Brookfield, Orange, Stonington, and Guilford will get double to six times their fair share.
Compounding the inequity, the ECS Formula for full funding calls for $2.3 billion, and the State of Connecticut puts up $1.9 billion, or 80.4 percent. Hence, those towns above 80.4 percent fully funded are ahead of the game.
This is not a rich versus poor or urban versus suburban issue. Greenwich gets 3 percent of its due while Guilford gets 576 percent. Waterbury gets 68 percent and Groton 125 percent of their fully funded grants. It is not a partisan situation. At every level of the list there are towns represented by both Democrats and Republicans.
Consider as symptomatic of the problem Woodbury and Bethlehem, the two towns that comprise Regional District 14. They send their kids to the same schools. Bethlehem has a slightly higher median household income. Woodbury sends 78 percent of the students and pays 78 percent of the bill. Woodbury gets $1,095,009 ECS dollars; Bethlehem gets $1,107,720.
But the revised ECS formula says Woodbury should receive $2,209,917, and Bethlehem should receive $764,509. Thus, Woodbury gets 50 percent of what it should receive, i.e., $1.1 million less than it deserves, and Bethlehem gets 159 percent, i.e., $350,000 more. Per student, that’s Woodbury, $928, and Bethlehem, $3,261. Huge difference! And that extra $350,000 for Bethlehem in essence comes out of Woodbury’s pocket.
Education Cost Sharing is as much, if not more, an issue of taxation as it is education. For the near future, state taxes paid by citizens of underfunded towns like Woodbury, Waterbury, Manchester, Enfield, Norwich, and Danbury will be spent subsidizing other towns’ budgets while local tax rates in those underfunded towns will be elevated to make up for ECS dollars they should be getting.
Unless immediately corrected, this inequitable distribution of ECS funding could be the basis for the next court challenge, and it seems to have clear and definite merit.
Bill Monti is a member of the Woodbury Board of Finance.