FULL-DAY K DEBATE: Was it a budget deal, or was it status quo explained?

While full-day kindergarten is funded and should start with the new school year, how and when that and other funding became part of the municipal budget still seems to be the source of disagreement between a city official and education official.

City and school officials reached a post-budget agreement concerning full-day kindergarten and other budget particulars — and the disagreement is about whether that deal involved new policy and money, or simply clarified what was in the already approved budget.

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace used a recent Board of Education (BOE) meeting to claim that BOE Chairman Mark Holden had used “incorrect” language to describe the status of budget discussions between the city and BOE in late May.

Holden was quoted in the May 28 BOE meeting minutes as saying the city had made “an offer” to provide additional funding that likely would cover full-day kindergarten, eliminate pay-to-play fees, and help the school district pay for higher special education, propane and electric costs.

Anglace: 'No offer was made'

Anglace said no such offer was made because Mayor Mark Lauretti had included $500,000 in his original proposed budget that the BOE could use for capital costs — and this was the funding Holden had claimed was in “the offer.”

“No offer was made,” Anglace said, but rather the situation was explained to Holden.

“Following discussion, this was understood by everyone in the room,” Anglace said about a budget meeting between city and BOE officials.

Two aldermen also had questions

Anglace, and some other aldermen, have insisted the original budget proposed by Lauretti and the one enacted by the aldermen on May 22 had included the funds needed for full-day kindergarten, among other costs.

Two aldermen — Jack Finn and Noreen McGorty — also had questioned whether the aldermen-approved budget included money for full-day K, and voted against the budget primarily for that reason.

Anglace said “inaccurate statements,” such as those he claimed were made by Holden on the alleged budget offer, “contribute to an ill-informed constituency” and “made the budget process harder than it needed to be.”

Holden says it's time for ‘a truce’

Holden responded that he respectfully” disagreed with Anglace’s description of what occurred, saying the budget situation now has been worked out and it’s time to move on.

“We did ultimately get to a happy place,” Holden said. “The finger-pointing should stop. We need to reach a truce on this.”

When passed, the aldermen-approved budget provided the BOE with less money than Lauretti had recommended, Holden said.

He said the $500,000 for BOE capital costs hadn’t been explained, but then city and BOE officials worked out what expenses could be covered by the capital funds.

Holden said the city’s willingness to pay any propane costs above $226,000 for the upcoming fiscal year also was important in the post-budget agreement.