Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposed cuts to 85 schools across the state including Orange came as no surprise to town and school administrators in late August. Earlier in the month, Superintendent of Schools Vince Scarpetti attended the Commissioner’s Back to School Meeting and he said the main focus was the budget, as it has been for many months. “Superintendents were pleading to the governor to do all that could be done with deciding on a budget,” he said.
That same day, Schools Business Administrator Mary-Jo Sierakowski and Scarpetti met with First Selectman James Zeoli and the town’s Finance Director John Cifarelli. “At that time, we were really in the dark, because no decisions had been made regarding the budget. Since then, you may have seen that the governor put a new executive order out about cuts to funding to 85 school districts including Orange, with zero funds to our district,” Scarpetti said. “We’re still in wait-and-see mode until a budget is passed.”
“Under the governor’s proposed budget, Orange would lose $1.5 million in ECS (education cost sharing),” Cifarelli said. “If we lost that funding, it would raise taxes three-quarters of a mil.”
On August 23, the house democrats released their budget. According to the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, the proposal restores many of the staggering cuts in municipal aid included in Governor Malloy’s revised Executive Order, but also continues to include cuts in municipal aid for many towns and cities.
“Since the governor made his proposal, the state legislature countered with its own proposal that reinstates funding to education. If that passes, we’d see a $150,000 cut, not the $1.5 million,” Cifarelli said. Since the education budget is part of the town budget, any loss will be to the revenue of the town, not directly to education, according to Cifarelli, who indicated that the town was prepared for such a cut when it wrote the budget last spring. “The Board of Finance was keeping an eye on what was going on in Hartford when we planned the budget and we planned very conservatively, taking into account that big cuts looked like they were going to be coming,” he said.
“The bottom line, whether there are enormous cuts or not, is the kids are going to school at the end of the month and budget cuts are not going to affect their education. They are going to learn as they always have,” Cifarelli said.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent