Monday, December 02, 2013

Malloy Diverts Tax Dollars To Bridgeport: Pelto Pelts Malloy

Jonathan Pelto, who is to the Malloy administration what Inspector Javert was to Jean Valjean, demonstrates how Malloyalists help a city – Will anyone be surprised to discover that it is Bridgeport? – circumvent its statutory obligations, not to mention its moral obligations to taxpayers living outside the confines of Bridgeport:

“Apparently without the approval of the State Board of Education or the approval of the Connecticut General Assembly, the Malloy administration is planning to provide Malloy ally, Mayor [of Bridgeport] Bill Finch, with a special deal so that he doesn’t have to have the City Bridgeport meet the state law concerning their minimum budget expenditures for local education. The law is called the Minimum Budget Requirement (MBR).”

Here is, in full, the Malloyalist letter to Mayor Finch:

“Dear Mayor Finch,

“Thank you for your ongoing engagement with us regarding the City’s contribution to the Bridgeport Public Schools and the Minimum Budget Requirement. We all share a deep commitment to your community and its schools, and are hopeful that our discussions have led us to a positive way forward.

“These discussions are especially timely today. In recent years, the State has made extraordinary financial contributions to the Bridgeport Public Schools, which we hope have helped to provide the educational resources that teachers and students need to succeed and, at the same time, have helped to move the district in the direction of budgetary stability. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the division and controversy that have continued to plague the Bridgeport public schools.

“We are committed to putting these divisive issues behind us so that the newly elected Board of Education can rededicate itself to the challenges ahead on behalf of Bridgeport’s young people. I know that you share that commitment.

It is clear that the City’s funding for the Board of Education will continue to be a challenge in light of Bridgeport’s fiscal condition. We have identified a way forward that will, we sincerely hope, allow the City to satisfy its obligations, and allow the Board to operate its budget in balance for the 2013-14 school year. It is not ideal, and it will require all parties – the City, the Board, and the State – to make some contribution. But it can be sufficient to allow all parties to turn their attention from past conflicts to our aspirations for the future.

“In summary, our tentative plan is to make up for the $3.3 million in MBR shortfall as follows:

“1. The City has demonstrated tangible in-kind contributions in the Board’s favor over the last two years which have provided significant budget relief to the Board. The City reasonably expected that those contributions would count toward FY 14 MBR compliance. As a result, the state will credit these contributions against the MBR and adjust the MBR requirement downward by $1.2 million, once necessary documentation is satisfactorily provided to the SDE.

“2. The City will make a further contribution to the Board this year in the form of a $1.1 million reduction in the Board’s required contribution for Worker’s Compensation indemnity payments for non-certified staff. This will allow the Board to redeploy existing funds budgeted for that purpose to other areas. The City will provide such detailed assurances as needed by the Board that the City will make up the claims liability, and that this contribution will not impact the Board’s future contributions to the Internal Services Fund or otherwise deplete current or future resources of the school system.

“3. The state remains committed to providing assistance to fiscally challenged communities so that they can maintain support for their schools. As part of this effort, the State Department of Education will provide the City with $1.2 million by the end of the fiscal year for the purpose of further supporting the Bridgeport Public Schools. All of these monies must be appropriated by the City to the Board for that purpose prior to the end of the fiscal year. This assistance will be contingent upon the successful completion of all other components by the City of the plan laid out in this letter.

“4. Finally, the City, will commit to recommending and diligently working to enact a City budget for FY 15 that complies with the MBR and all local spending requirements, and to working with the Board to develop a long-term strategy for City support of the public schools.

“Again, we are hopeful that this plan, and the new resources and partnership that it represents, will serve Bridgeport’s students and help the newly-elected Board to be successful.

“Kind regards,

“Stefan Pryor
State Department of Education

“Benjamin Barnes
Office of Policy and Management”

Mr. Pelto ends his ruminations by topping his Hot Fudge Sunday with a cherry:

“Why Malloy, Stefan Pryor or Ben Barnes think such a deal wouldn’t need the approval of the State Board of Education or the Connecticut General Assembly is a mystery.

“Furthermore, how Governor Malloy could give this tax break to his political ally, Mayor Bill Finch, and not make it available to property taxpayers in Connecticut’s other economically hard hit communities is also unclear.”

One suspects that very little in this tawdry backroom political wheeling and dealing between Mayor of Bridgeport Finch and Mr. Malloy, heavily reliant on the city for votes, is a mystery to Mr. Pelto. Mr. Pelto served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1984-1993. He was Deputy Majority Leader and member of the Appropriations Committees during the income tax debate of 1991 – He liked it – and presently works as a strategic communications consultant.

Mr. Pelto, a fully invested progressive Democrat, so far has confined himself in much of his reporting on his blog, “Wait What?”,  to political matters involving the struggle between teachers unions -- He likes them – and abhorrent but exuberant Malloyalists engaged in reforming Connecticut’s laggard schools. Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor has been a prime target, though Mr. Pelto has often sallied out to joust with others. In his latest offering, Mr. Pelto has come dangerously close to an attack on Democratic Party methods that some party reformers, not always Democrats, have considered disreputable.  These methods are in full flower in the Malloyalist Dear Bill letter.

Dear Mayor Finch,

So then, through improvident spending and the usual political skullduggery, you have found yourself with your back wedged uncomfortably against an unyielding deficit wall. Please allow us to remove the wall for you.

Kind regards – and looking forward to the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, your Malloyalists friends,

 “Stefan Pryor
State Department of Education

“Benjamin Barnes
Office of Policy and Management”
Dannel Malloy

Governor of Connecticut

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