What if school districts were independent fiscal authorities, with budgeting and taxing powers separate from municipal finance boards, mayors and selectmen? A bill before the legislature proposes just that, and is drawing concern from local officials.
“Oh yeah. It showed up over the weekend,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said of ‘HB-7319, An Act Concerning The Fiscal Independence Of School Districts.’
“This bill is concerning for a lot of us,” he said.
The bill would require local and regional school districts with fewer than 15,000 students — Ridgefield’s school system is about a third that size — to become taxing authorities, separate from any municipality.
“By creating this fiscal independence, it allows a Board of Education to set a mill rate — to do everything the municipality now does, for education services only,” Marconi said.
Marconi isn’t the only one worried. A vocal opponent is Wilton State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143).
“The bill would basically turn Boards of Education in Connecticut into independent taxing districts,” Lavielle said. “...Creation of independent school taxing districts would diminish the role residents play in the determination and allocation of funding of their schools.”
The legislation would be applicable to Ridgefield, Wilton and the schools in many other towns and cities— basically all local and regional school districts in the state, except for five: Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and Stamford.
Among the concerns raised by opponents of the bill are:
- It gives the new school taxing districts the power to assess, levy, and collect taxes on all property for the purpose of providing educational services.
- It also gives school districts the power to borrow money and issue bonds.
- School districts would also gain the power to appropriate funds for the purpose of providing educational services.
- The bill would also withdraws from towns and cites the powers it gives to school districts — to assess, levy, and collect taxes; borrow money; and appropriate funds for the purpose of providing educational services.