Anglace: BOE must recognize past failures before moving forward

SHELTON — Board of Aldermen President John Anglace Jr. said past school district administrative and financial incompetence led to a diminished general fund, and until the Board of Education acknowledges its fault, the relationship between the aldermen and school board will remain fractured.

But Anglace told the all Republican Board of Aldermen at its meeting June 11 that he has renewed hope for a reconciliation thanks to school Finance Director Rick Belden and the new Board of Education leadership.

“We welcome the new BOE and find their willingness to work with the BOA to be refreshing and hopeful,” said Anglace. “The ‘business as usual’ attitude of the past must be examined if we are to see education progress.”

The November election brought in new BOE leadership, with six new members overall, four of whom were Republicans. Republican Kathy Yolish assumed the chair position, with fellow party member James Orazietti as vice chair.

Anglace began his statement talking about the city’s claim that the Board of Education inappropriately spent the special education excess cost grant during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 fiscal years — money he says should have remained in the city coffers.

Past BOE Chair Mark Holden and former Superintendent Chris Clouet deny any overspending of the BOE budget over the three-year period, saying the $3.1 million in question was always to go to the BOE under state statute. The aldermen have sued the Board of Education for repayment of what it said the board overspent in its 2016-17 and 2017-18 budget allocations by some $3.1 million. The case is still pending.

Holden said the state Board of Education already told the city those funds were a reimbursement grant and the BOE was entitled to them.

“I look forward to the trial settling the matter,” said Holden.

Anglace, citing a letter to Clouet dated Jan. 28, 2020, from the state Department of Education Office of Internal Audit (OIA) Supervising Accounts Examiner Nora Chapman, said the state’s finding indicates that “the BOE SPED excess costs were submitted to the city as incurred and paid by the city on a pay as you go basis therefore, the BOE had no SPED accounts payable at year end and the entity to be reimbursed was the city.”

“The impact on city finances was a reduction of $3.1 million of city general fund surplus,” said Anglace. “There are still BOE members who continue to claim they are right, and the BOE did nothing wrong. Such continued denials in the face of overwhelming finding to the contrary does nothing to improve the working relationship between our boards.”

The loss of these city funds along with some $4.4 million in reimbursements not yet in the city’s coffers, according to Anglace, has lowered the general fund to nearly zero and forced city officials to complete a nearly flat-funded budget overall.

The Board of Education recently applied for the $4.4 million due in state reimbursements for completed capital project work, some of which was years old.

Anglace also said he wanted to dispell claims that the Board of Education budget has been flat funded last fiscal year into the present. He notes the cost savings from the city taking over the bus operation has kept more than $1 million a year for three years available to the school district.

The aldermen sued the BOE to gain operational control over the bus operation. A court-stipulated agreement between the city and BOE calls for the cost to the school board to be no more than $3.1 million annually for over three years. The coming fiscal year is year two of the agreement.

“The BOE budget was not reduced,” said Anglace, adding that Durham School Services was paid $4.4 million and the city is doing it for $3.15 million.

Holden said, at the time, the city refused to provide a proposal or anything to indicate it understood the magnitude of the task at hand.

“When asked if they would commit to us having any savings we could use within our budget, the answer was no,” said Holden. “When they wouldn't guarantee any savings we could use and refused to provide any information to indicate they understood the work, it wouldn't have been responsible to hire them.”