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Letter to the Editor: West Hartford is Short-Changed by ECS

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Dear Editor,

With all of the clamor over Governor Malloy’s budget and various interest groups fighting for a slice of the pie, it is easy to grow disinterested and see it all as crowding at the trough. However, anyone who pays property tax in West Hartford, has children in West Hartford schools, or works for the West Hartford school system should take notice of one argument that no matter how you look at it, is pressing and significant.

The Education Cost Sharing Grant (commonly referred to as ECS money) is the state’s way of trying to redistribute state money to the 169 towns and school districts in a way that attempts to address need. No matter how you feel about this redistribution of wealth, you should know that it is happening whether you agree with it or not.

You are paying a state income tax and sales tax and some of that money is going into the ECS fund. You are also paying local property taxes which are primarily going towards educating the children in your town. Towns receive some ECS money from the state and the rest of the cost of education in that town is covered by local property taxes.

Unfortunately for West Hartford and about 17 other towns, the state is underfunding us by more than 50 percent. In other words, we do not receive even 50 percent of what we should receive from the state if current levels of need and poverty were taken into account.

Meanwhile, there are many towns like Greenwich with very little need who are being overfunded by the state.

In real dollars, this means that West Hartford receives about $36 million less from the state per year than it should. As a result, West Hartford taxpayers are paying about $1,500 more per year to compensate for that shortfall. This also means that our schools are operating with fewer resources than they should.

Our State Senator, Beth Bye, and our state representatives, Andrew Fleischmann, Brian Becker, and Joe Verrengia along with many other reps from other affected towns, have proposed a bill, SB 816, which would address this issue. If passed into law, this bill would require that no town in Connecticut receive less than 50 percent of what it is due from the state. This bill, or some other legislative solution, is only fair. This bill is not calling for additional state taxes, only a more equitable distribution of the current fund.

There is a public hearing on this bill on Thursday, April 2, at 10 a.m. If you are interested in speaking at this hearing, sign-ups begin at the legislative office building at 8:30 a.m.

If you are unable to testify in person, you can submit written testimony to [email protected]. You can also contact your representatives to let them know how you feel about this situation. This website allows you to instantly find and email all of your representatives at once:

http://www.cbia.com/ga/action_center/contact_ct_legislators/

Please make your voice heard.

Ted Goerner

West Hartford

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