The Griswold Budget Process – Perception is Reality

This article was published on: 05/12/20 10:20 PM by Mike Minarsky

There are a lot of confusing issues or interpretations right now when it comes to the education budget here in Griswold.  Let’s try to break down the numbers so there can be a little more clarity and hopefully more understanding.

Let’s start at the last set of proposed budget numbers that are available to the public as of today, 5/12/20. The PROPOSED budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 is $29,171,800.  The budget for 2019-2020 was $27,758,510.  What the Board of Education was proposing is an increase of $1,413,290 over the previous year.  That would be an increase of 5.09%.  Just to be very clear, these numbers have nothing to do with the Capitol or the General Government budget in the town.  This is STRICTLY the education budget.

At the latest Griswold Board of Finance meeting, all 3 budgets were sent back to the respective departments to make cuts.  This is nothing new, this happens every year.    The big difference this year?  COVID-19 and the impact that is has had on town economics.

Enter the petition questioning the Board of Finance advice of cuts.  Here is the first paragraph from the petition that is circling the town. “The Griswold Board of Finance intends to cut the 2020-2021 Griswold Public Schools budget by an alarming $1.267 million.”  Here is where the gray area starts with some residents.  The line speaks specifically to the 2020-2021 budget.  It doesn’t speak to the 2019-2020 budget.  If that was the case, then the Board of Finance would be looking to approve a budget of $25,715,909.  That is not what they are asking.  Although the petition is correct, the wording is vague and a bit confusing.  Some have gotten the perception that Board of Finance wants to approve a budget less than the previous year.  Again, not true.  Maybe the first line of the petition should read… “The Griswold Board of Finance intends to cut the PROPOSED increase of $1,413,290 in the 2020-2021 budget by $1,267,000, leaving an increase of $146,290 inside the town’s education budget. (give or take a few $$’s).

Here are a few things that you might not know.  The Education budget is an expenditure budget.  There are no revenues reflected in it.  However, the school system creates quite a bit of revenue.   “Sending Towns” or “Tuition Towns” are a big revenue source.  When a student comes from another town, that town pays the town of Griswold out of their budget for tuition.  These revenues are not reflected in the Board of Education’s budgets, ever.  In the 2018-2019 school year, Griswold received $1,989,283.17 in revenue from area towns that send their children to Griswold Public Schools.  In the current school year, 2019-2020, Griswold has received $2,111,950.85, surpassing their projection of $2,000,000.  These revenues are reflected inside the town of Griswold’s budget within the general fund.  Next year, should prove to show even larger revenues with the addition or more towns having the flexibility to send students to Griswold, more on that at a different time…

Although there are 2 budgets that are voted on each year, well not this year, because, well, COVID-19.  Because of the revenues from tuition towns, earned by the Griswold Schools goes to the town coffers, the budgets need to be looked at as one. If you take the revenue from this line item and credit it to the Griswold Public Schools, their budget doesn’t look so “taxing.”

Here’s one more item to digest.  Just a couple of years ago, Griswold was one of the last towns in the state to pass their budget because of state educational funding.  The town didn’t know what they were going to get.  Then the state came up with a whole new cool term called “Holdbacks” in terms of educational funding.  It was a funding cut.  This held up the budgets since it couldn’t be crafted because no one knew what they were going to get as far as funding.  What happened?  They pushed back the referendum until the numbers were solid and a definite final budget could be voted on.  Why can’t they wait now?  Is it strictly because of the executive order from the Governor that gives the Griswold Board of Finance total and eminent domain?  Why not wait until later in the year and continue with a month to month budget until a referendum can be held safely.  Wouldn’t that also give the boards time to build an even more accurate budget for the taxpayer to digest.  They would also have more solid numbers to go by when it comes to town savings caused by shut downs/slow ups due to the pandemic.  Those numbers are just starting to come in now.

So… No, the education budget isn’t getting decked.  Yes, the referendum should be moved up.  Yes, the residents should be allowed to vote.  No, a single board should not sit at the right hand and make all the decisions on the financial stability of a single town.  We had to wait for a referendum before and we can social distance our way through this.  It’s not like there are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of people voting at 2 different polling locations.  There are more people buying social distance ice cream at Buttonwoods than people that will actually show up to vote.


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