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Wednesday, August 16 News

Amid hefty state cut, Westport to lose all ECS funding

WESTPORT — The town saw an anticipated cut to its state education aid last week amid a more than $500 million reduction by the governor aimed at cutting costs, while also shifting funding from wealthier to poorer districts to cushion the latter from losses.

Westport’s Education Cost Sharing grant, a payment of state aid made annually to the town for education, was cut to zero in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Aug. 1 executive order outlining plans for ECS payments if the state’s budget is not set by the time they’re due in October. Westport and other affluent towns’ portion of aid had been dwindling in recent years and the total cut was anticipated, as the state has struggled to address its budget deficit and agree on a two-year spending plan.

The cut “for us is painful, but we can take it,” Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern said during an Aug. 2 meeting. “For some communities, it’s disastrous.”

Westport did not include any ECS aid in its 2017-18 budget, forecasting a cut. Stern called the decrease “totally in line with our budget guess.” Last fiscal year, the town received $465,334.

In Malloy’s executive order, Westport was among 163 towns that would see spending cuts and 34 that would receive no ECS grant for the first time this fiscal year. Only Ansonia, New London, Derby, Windham, New Britain and Waterbury would receive increases in ECS aid.

“I had hoped that this would be resolved in the month of August or the first few weeks of September,” Malloy told reporters last week. “If this is going to drag on, then quite frankly some of those assumptions will have to be adjusted to reflect the constitutional requirement with respect to public education.”

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he’s been in touch with the governor regarding ECS funding distribution.

“We’re working to mitigate any harm that would happen should a budget not exist,” Duff said.

In the meantime, Duff said legislators are continuing to work on an official budget, with hopes of passing it by fall, though he wouldn’t say how likely that was to happen.

Kaitlyn Krasselt contributed to this report.

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