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Selectmen vote against minimum budget funding

WINSTED — The long battle over the minimum budget requirement (MBR) for the school district for fiscal 2011-12 continued at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 3.During the meeting, Selectman George Closson made a motion to fund the MBR at the level set by the state, which is $19,958,149.The motion was seconded by Selectman Michael Renzullo.Surprisingly, there was no debate or discussion on the motion itself, which went straight to a vote.The selectmen formally voted against funding the MBR by a vote of four to three.The vote was on now familiar party lines: Selectmen Ken Fracasso, Glenn Albanesius, Karen Beadle and Lisa Smith voted against Closson’s motion.Mayor Candy Perez, Renzullo and Closson voted for the motion.On Sept. 1, Acting Commissioner of State Education George Coleman sent a letter ordering the town to provide the school district the additional funds to make up the shortfall or provide a detailed timetable of when the town can pay the additional funds.Coleman set a deadline of Oct. 1 for the town to commit to either of the two options.At a meeting on Sept. 19, the selectmen voted to direct Town Manager Dale Martin to research and develop plans to make up the MBR shortfall.At Monday’s meeting, Martin did not present any plans.Instead, in an interview after the meeting, Martin said that Perez sent a letter to incoming Commissioner of State Education Stefan Pryor.“At this time, the town is unable to provide a response to Commissioner Coleman’s inquiries,” Perez wrote in her letter, which was sent on Sept. 28. “I can assure you the town is taking the issue of the MBR very seriously but can offer no solutions at this time.”At Monday’s meeting, there was an agenda item listed for a discussion of a previous disbursement of funds motion regarding the MBR and the Board of Education.However, that item was taken off the meeting agenda at Beadle’s request. Monday’s meeting is just the latest of the long twists and turns in what has become a prolonged battle between the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education over the MBR.In late May, residents passed an education budget for fiscal 2011-12 of $18,600,000.The budget, which was developed and recommended by the selectmen, is $1,358,149 below the state’s request for the MBR.On May 2, before the budget vote, the Board of Education officially filed a lawsuit in Litchfield Judicial District Superior Court against the selectmen for cutting $2,820,561 from the school budget.According to the state’s judicial branch website at www.civilinquiry.jud.ct.gov, the last action date of the case was on July 22.On that date, the defendants made a motion to dismiss the case.The court case has not moved any further since then, and according to the website, as of Oct. 1 there are no further court dates scheduled.

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