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Vernon's Share of the ECS Grant Could Increase Dramatically if Task Force Recommendation is Fully Followed

Local education officials, however, said it's a cautionary tale.

Under a recommendation from the state's Education Cost Sharing Task Force, Vernon could be in line to receive more than $7 million in additional funding during the next fiscal year.

School officials, however, are cautioning the public to look at reality before assuming that any stately figures are descending from the mountaintop with that amount etched onto stone tablets.

“With the state facing a deficit, I think it's unlikely that the task force's recommendations will be fully funded," said Michael Purcaro, the director of business and finance for the Vernon school system, on Sunday. "However, they are nonetheless a step in the right direction for our students in helping to fix a broken program that has been underfunding our educational system for years."

The ECS grants are annually a major portion of the revenue side for each Connecticut town's budget. The trouble is, even the most seasoned municipal financial minds have a hard time explaining just how the funds are figured.

Two premises behind the task force's studies are to fix the "broken" calculation system and to eliminate an artificial capping system that has deprived the ECS program of $769 million on average each year since the 2006-07 fiscal year, local education officials said.

According to an overview of the task force report shared by an area public official, the task force’s recommendations would change how the state measures need and a town’s ability to pay for educating its students. The formula would now be based on factoring in median household income and property values and will include how many students are receiving free and reduced-price meals at school. 

The total increase recommended is an additional $757.3 million in spending over four years, according to the report, and Vernon's share could jump from $18,316,776 to $25,952,123 in the first year. 

Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway last week presented a $51.88 million 2013-14 budget proposal to the school board. The bottom line of $51,885,043 represents an increase of $3,704,046 - or 7.69 percent - over this year's budget of $48,180,997.

The budget proposal includes a partial phasing-in of full-day kindergarten, but the Board of Education has asked Conway to run the numbers on full implementation to see what it would cost.

A fraction of the potential $7,635,347 would pay for the full-day kindergarten program, Purcaro said.

The school board's Finance Committee will likely discuss the task force report at its meeting scheduled for 6 tonight. The full school board is slated to meet an hour later.

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