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From this mornings Republican-American: Kent finance board concerned BOE has not been attending crucial meetings Reply

Kent finance board concerned

BOE has not been attending crucial meetings

BY LYNN MELLIS WORTHINGTON

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

KENT — The Board of Finance wants to hear more from the Board of Education and members have gotten tired of waiting for representatives to attend their meetings. Finance board member Edward Epstein has repeatedly expressed concern that no one representing the education board attends the monthly finance meeting.Finance member Mark Sebetic agreed that he’d like to hear from the Board of Education more than just once a year during the budget presentation. “We deserve to hear (from them) at least once a quarter,” Sebetic said. Epstein said he’s specifically concerned about the Region 1 funds this year.
“I think there are going to be implications in the Region 1 system,” he said, noting there has been talk about the assistant superintendent taking a “buy out” and if that happened the money would come from the regional budgets and that could reduce the money returned to the towns.
The Board of Finance agreed to request a copy of the monthly financial report from the Board of Education.

Contact Lynn Mellis Worthington at or on Twitter @ lynnmellw

FULL STORY AVAILABLE AT http://rep-am.com

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I was talking about this in the last election….. Reply

From this mornings Republican-American. Combine this story with the story in yesterdays Lakeville Journal and you see the major problems ahead for Region 1.

 

Council: Enrollment down, education costs up

Decisions needed soon, speaker says

BY RUTH EPSTEIN

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

TORRINGTON — With school populations declining and education costs increasing, towns will be forced to make some difficult decisions, said Jonathan Costa, director of school programs at Education Connection. Costa spoke at Thursday’s meeting of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments.

“The trends are borne by forces beyond your control,” he told the group of area first selectmen. “Economic and demographic factors are leading to a decrease in enrollment and the problem is probably the worst here in the Northwest Corner.”

Costa said the downward enrollment spiral began in 2008. Of the 31 communities in the Education Connection region, 29 have seen a decrease in the last five years, he noted. The only municipalities bucking the trend are New Milford and Danbury, but the numbers there are close to falling as well.

Costa said one method to handle the decline is regional cooperation, but such arrangements must be agreed upon unilaterally.

“The ease of getting into them must be balanced by the ease of getting out,” Costa said.

A school district must give one year’s notice if it wishes to opt out, which can leave the remaining school or schools in a problem situation.

Another method Costa recommended is a formalized regional education arrangement. If the towns want to widen their area and bring in more towns, all must agree.

Costa noted that some of the towns represented at COG are conducting merger studies, such as the elementary schools in Norfolk and Colebrook, where one town could benefit and another would not because of the existing law.

He also spoke about the 18 regional school districts in Connecticut, all of which were formed during times of economic and demographic expansions.

“They saw they could get something out of it that they couldn’t do on their own and none have failed,” Costa said.

But now merger talks are being held in a time of contraction and there is nothing to be gained by the laws in place.

“If you don’t change the laws, the proposals won’t go through,” he said. “Joining together could raise per pupil costs and equalizing the distribution of per pupil expenses is not legal.”

If two towns join forces, one town is left with an empty building, Costa said. That town would need assistance in helping to reconstitute that building.

Costa touched on the issue of small classes, which are prevalent in the northwestern part of the state.

“They can be good until they become a problem,” he said, noting such challenges as heavily weighted one-gender classes.

Sharon First Selectman Brent M. Colley wondered about setting up an elementary school in one Region 1 town and a middle school in another. Falls Village First Selectman Patricia A. Mechare said the idea of establishing a middle school was floated many years ago and was strongly opposed.

She spoke about her town’s school, which has an enrollment of 77 in kindergarten through grade eight. She said so far the community is willing to bear the costs because residents think they have a great school. If there were no school in the town, property values would be diminished, she said.

Mechare said a past study about whether to combine with Cornwall concluded there would be no financial savings.

Costa sympathized with the town leaders, noting they are in a tough situation. He said in the long term there probably will be economic consequences if they don’t merge because their educational systems are so small.

“At what point does expense overcome cultural resistance to create new configurations?” he asked rhetorically.

Kent First Selectman Bruce K. Adams asked COG members to continue the discussion at future meetings.