The Day – Legislators, municipal leaders discuss special education cost issues
Norwich — About 50 state legislators and municipal leaders gathered at City Hall Monday to discuss ways to tackle the skyrocketing cost of special education and the state and federal mandates they say are crippling local school budgets across the region.
The group raised issues such as declining state and federal reimbursement rates, lack of control over special education placements and the uncertainty they all bring to local budget processes.
Bozrah Board of Finance Chairman Michael Connor then brought the issue home.
Connor said as town officials neared the end of the budget process this spring, they learned a new student had moved to town with high needs that would cost about $150,000 per year. Within a week, that estimate had climbed to more than $200,000 for the one student. Town leaders ended up budgeting $260,000 for the student.
“And it’s just as likely that student could move out of town and we won’t have to spend that money,” Connor said. “It’s frustrating as hell. We’re not even allowed to question the numbers.”
Monday’s forum was called by Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom after Norwich school officials told the mayor and City Council that they could not cut the $4 million from the school board’s requested 2018-19 budget of $83 million and the City Council’s approved $78.4 million total. The Norwich school board also is projecting a $1.5 million to $2 million budget deficit in the fiscal year just ended, most of that attributed to special education costs.