Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti said despite Gov. Dannel Malloy’s budget proposal, which includes hefty cuts to Educational Cost Sharing, he doesn’t plan to submit a budget for the city that reflects those cuts.
“My plan is to incorporate all of the numbers we’re dealing with this year,” said Lauretti. “I’m not reflecting that couple-million-dollar cut that the governor is proposing in our budget because then they’ll think it’s OK. They’ll think, ‘Oh, he worked it out, he didn’t need our money after all,’ and that’s BS.”
Shelton’s mayor of nearly 26 years said he’s never entered a budget season facing potential cuts quite like this year’s.
“This is exceptional, but if you look at my budget messages, for years we’ve been warning people about what the state has been doing, and now look what’s happening,” said Lauretti.
Under Malloy’s budget proposal, millions of dollars in state funds would be taken from towns and cities like Shelton and distributed to larger, more urban cities such as New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford.
The governor hopes to improve the quality of education in more urban cities and towns by increasing the amount of state funds put toward their schools.
Lauretti said this attempt to improve education in these cities won’t work and isn’t a new approach.
“We’ve been throwing money at the equation for years, and not much changes other than people getting bigger salaries and bigger pensions,” said Lauretti. “That’s why I always say ‘more’ doesn’t always mean ‘better.’ It’s not about the kids anymore, it’s about who’s getting paid what. That money never gets to the kids, that’s the problem.”
According to Lauretti, the state grants Hartford $7,500 per student for its population of 21,000 students. Lauretti said the state gives Shelton $400 per student.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Lauretti. “Where’s the equity?”
Malloy’s budget proposal would also call for Shelton to now handle one-third of its teachers’ pension liabilities, which in previous years was fully funded by the state. Lauretti said the state is looking to create “shared sacrifice” because it is not able to continue to pay the costs of the pension fund.
‘Government can’t solve a city’s education underperformance issues’
Lauretti said the major difference between suburban and urban towns/cities is the overall involvement parents have in their kids’ education.
As a science teacher and basketball coach of nine years in Bridgeport before becoming Shelton’s mayor, Lauretti said, he has seen firsthand these differences in support.
“I know what it’s like,” said Lauretti. “There’s a lot of good kids there that are getting shortchanged by the adults because the adults don’t do what they’re supposed to do. Unless parents are more involved with their kids, some of them will get left by the wayside. That’s a fact. It’s an unfortunate fact, and not only here in Connecticut but all over our country,” said Lauretti.
The mayor continued.
“Legislators aren’t going to hold parents accountable because they vote. Kids don’t. It’s easier for them to say, ‘Hey, municipality, you can afford it, so just pay more and shut up,’ and that’s a big problem,” said Lauretti. “Unless we can start confronting some of the unpleasantries in our world, we’re not going to solve anything. We’re not helping people, and the political structure is failing the public in that regard.”
Want change? People have the power
Lauretti said he thinks legislation is also a big part of the state’s current set of problems, but that the people can help to solve some of them by voting every November.
Lauretti disagrees with Board of Aldermen President, John Anglace who said he believes the only way to address the budget cuts proposed by the governor is to raise the city’s property tax.
“They’ve gotta reduce the tax burden on people,” said Lauretti. “The average guy, the business owner, they’ve got a lot of people who need incentive to be and stay in Connecticut. We used to have that and we lost that. It’s going to take a lot of work to get it back, but it’s possible.”