Torrington, CT – Last month, the Board of Education voted unanimously to call for a forensic audit of city finances. The vote is the latest development in an ongoing budget debate and shows there has been a complete breakdown in trust between the Republican-led board and the city.
Board of Education Chair Fiona Cappabianca made the case that Mayor Elinor Carbone’s cuts are not applied equally throughout the city, routinely leaving our schools underfunded. “The city keeps claiming we are distressed, and budget decisions are based on the impact on the mill rate. The problem is that only seems to apply to the education budget. We often hear about shared sacrifices but only when it applies to the BOE.
“While the city budget received an increase of $5,202,755, the BOE marginal increase of $1,341,575 is not enough to cover our obligations and ensure student success.” Cappabianca told the BOE on Wednesday. She says it’s not just this year’s budget, but a clear pattern of the city leadership not prioritizing education. “Consistently inadequate levels of funding leave too many of our students behind.”
The budget fiasco has already led to one Republican Board of Education member resigning from the Republican Town Committee in protest, several tight votes on the city council where Republicans broke rank, and now this standoff between the Republican-led city government and the Republican-led BOE. The dissent among party members is a clear referendum on the leadership or lack thereof of Mayor Carbone.
In addition to calling for a forensic audit, the BOE voted to explore moving their insurance to their own plan separate from the city’s to see if such changes would save money.
Democratic City Councilman Paul Cavagnero has been warning about the potential for budget conflicts between the city and the Board of Education for years. “Nine years ago, I left my position on the Board of Education to run for city council because you could see this crisis coming even back then.” Cavagnero points out that education budgets are getting increasingly complex and require greater attention than the city leadership has given them.
Democratic City Councilwoman Keri Hoehne applauded the BOE decision and reflected on her opposition to the budget. She posted to Facebook that voting no on the budget put her in “an uncomfortable position.”
“I want our police and fire fully funded,” Hoehne stated. “And I want more recreational opportunities for kids and seniors. But I couldn’t vote for a huge increase in funding for our city without knowing what the mayor would recommend for our schools’ budget.”