January 16, 2017 07:51AM
By Brooke Constance White
Sun staff writer
STONINGTON — During a Board of Selectmen meeting Wednesday night, 18th District State Senator Heather Somers committed to doing whatever she could to help the town get back some of the state aid funding that was cut mid-budget cycle.
Just before New Year’s Eve, the town was notified that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made cuts to all municipalities in the state. Stonington’s state education aid was cut $143,825 and local capital improvement was cut $109,735, relatively small amounts considering that some communities are facing cuts of up to 90 percent of what they had planned on receiving.
“The state is in a precarious budget situation,” Somers said. “Thankfully, eastern Connecticut has a strong contingent on the Appropriations Committee, which has never happened before so it’s good we have a seat at the table during a time like this.”
First Selectman Rob Simmons said he wants the town to work closely with Somers and State Rep. Diana Urban to see if there will be opportunities for the town to get some of that funding back.
“I think there’s a real concern about what might be coming our way in the next budget cycle,” he said. “Personally, I believe the town of Stonington is blessed to have a really strong Board of Finance and Board of Education that we work really well with, so hopefully we can derive a good outcome from this. I think there are a lot of possibilities.”
Selectwoman Kate Rotella said she wanted to make sure residents knew that the board would be keeping a close eye on the cuts and would take them into consideration during the upcoming budget season.
“We made out better than some of the other communities in the state,” she said. “But I want us to be proactive rather than reactive and I want people to feel a sense of security and not be fearful.”
Somers suggested the town find ways to save money across the board as it’s unsure whether there will be more cuts.
“If I were the mayor or first selectman of a town, I would be looking to find whatever I could to keep costs as low as possible,” she said. “That being said, I think there is a strong movement within the capitol, no matter what party, to look at how we do things and how we provide services.”
Somers said she plans to look at the formula used to calculate the Education Cost Sharing for each town. During preliminary research, she learned that East Lyme, which has similar demographics and population size as Stonington, receives more than $9 million more in education aid from the state.
“This is something that will be addressed as it directly relates to these cuts,” she said. “I don’t know yet what that’ll look like, but there is bipartisan movement to make sure all education is equitable for students no matter what zipcode.”