Posted on March 3, 2021
HARTFORD — During a public hearing Wednesday in the Education Committee, lawmakers heard testimony on a proposal to study whether the current Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula unfairly disadvantages small and rural communities. State Representative Tammy Nuccio, who represents Ashford, Tolland, and Willington and who originally introduced the language behind the bill, says the failure of the ECS to adequately fund school districts is a dereliction of Connecticut’s obligations under the state constitution.
The state is currently in the fourth year of an eleven-year modification to the ECS formula originally approved in 2017. Over the next seven years, 95 of the state’s 166 school districts are expected to see their ECS grant funding reduced by up to 11.1% and Nuccio says school districts in rural and less-developed areas are among the hardest hit. In her written testimony submitted prior to the hearing, Rep. Nuccio said, “Education is not cheap, as we all know, and I am not here to debate which schools need more money. I’m here to talk about the responsibility of the state when it comes to education and the equitable funding of that responsibility regardless of where the school is located.”
Referring to the three towns she represents, Rep. Nuccio stated, besides ECS reductions, “There is something else unique about these three towns. They have some of the highest numbers of homes affected by crumbling foundations, some of the highest number of homes with property tax abatements which puts additional downward pressure on our net grand list. Add that to the pressure of having to add yearly reductions in revenue from the state and you have mandatory built in tax increases every year.”
Nuccio is concerned that the increase in local property taxes caused by decreased state funding is being felt by the district’s most vulnerable residents. “To date, they have not cut the budget because education is important to my residents, but the tax pressures are making people, good people who may not be on the higher end or even middle of Tolland’s area median income, leave because they simply can’t afford the taxes any longer,” Rep. Nuccio insisted.
During the hearing, Harwinton First Selectman Michael Criss expressed his support for the proposal, saying, “This working group would be essential to ensure the adequate and equitable funding for our towns.”
Nuccio concluded by asking the members of the committee to review the state’s education funding model and to ensure small towns have a voice in the discussion. “I ask that we stop taking from one town to give to another, that we prioritize our duty to our children at a state level and stop creating additional disparity in attainability of living in smaller towns,” Rep. Nuccio concluded.