Looming state and city budget deficits might force Hartford school officials to consider scaling back the planned redesign of some city schools.
And city council members, who must approve all school building funds, have promised closer scrutiny of any new building projects or school building upgrades proposed by the school district.
For the current fiscal year, Hartford is looking at a deficit of anywhere between $8.5 million and $20 million. The state — which contributes funding to city schools — is facing a $302 million deficit. While no education budget cuts have been proposed, city and school officials are scrutinizing spending and are preparing for the worst.
Under the school district's aggressive reformation plan, some existing schools were renovated to accommodate new programs. Eleven new schools — including the four separate academies at Hartford Public High School — were opened for the 2008 school year, and at least five schools are slated to be redesigned in 2009. The schools on the drawing board for 2010 might lose city funding if the budget crisis isn't resolved.
Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski has said the district might reduce the number of school redesigns planned for 2010-11 because they would likely have to be funded using only federal funds and education grants.
Adamowski has already outlined potential shortfalls in the school budget, and said if the budget is increased by 4.3 percent next year — the minimum increase Adamowski says is needed — the district could be short anywhere from $4.3 million to $13.8 million.
City council member Pedro E. Segarra, chairman of the budget committee, said his committee has called for a prioritized list of pending school construction projects after receiving two recent requests for funding from school officials.
The school construction projects are separate from the school redesigns and include upgrades to older buildings and new construction projects.
"My concern is that there are many school construction projects going on at this time, and more are on the drawing table," Segarra said Tuesday. "My concern is the ability of the city to finance all of these projects, given the financial situation that we are in."
School construction is funded through the city's budget and is approved by the city council. Much of the spending is typically reimbursed by the state. Kenneth Kennedy, another council member, said he is concerned the state might have less money to spread around this year. He stressed that it wasn't the specific spending requests that concerned him.
"It was the continuous list of projects we were getting from the board of education that raised an eyebrow," Kennedy said. "I just want the board to be as careful with those dollars as the council has to be."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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