Wallingford schools running fewer buses leads to state funding decrease

Wallingford schools running fewer buses leads to state funding decrease

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WALLINGFORD — The town is slated to receive an estimated $383,000 less in state funding, after reduced transportation costs resulted in less money being spent overall.

Despite this, Wallingford Public Schools still closed the month of December projecting a surplus of $124,703 for January, according to school officials.

Connecticut funds its public schools through a combination of local property taxes and state Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grants, the amount of which is determined town by town, based on factors including student enrollment and poverty level.

ECS accounts for more than 50 percent of the state’s total contribution to K-12 public schools, at approximately $2 billion. The ECS formula was created to equalize education funding across the state, granting more aid to municipalities with less property tax revenue and less aid to wealthier towns.

Wallingford’s estimated ECS grant for the 2020-21 fiscal year — $20.8 million — was based on projections sent to the state in December 2019 and March 2020, before the pandemic hit in mid-March, Dominic Barone, the school district’s business manager, said at a recent school board meeting.

Barone said the spending decreases in transportation are driven by special education students who are either not attending their programs or not in need of rides to their programs, a situation that school officials expect to last through the end of the school year.

Because of decreased use, Barone said the district is projecting a $1,794,010 savings in transportation.

He said the district is using 33 fewer vehicles on a daily basis than last year, or 41.25 percent of the usual number of vehicles, primarily vans and cars.

The town receives the ECS grant and the Board of Education receives what’s called the excess cost grant.

The state adjusts the ECS grant amounts in the following fiscal year, since officials don’t know the amount until the final audits are done at the end of December, Barone said.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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