PA 10-151—sHB 5490

Education Committee

Appropriations Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT AND VARIOUS EDUCATION GRANTS

SUMMARY: This act:

1. allows towns whose school districts had fewer students enrolled in the 2009-10 school year than in 2008-09 to reduce their minimum budgeted education appropriations for FY 10 to reflect the drop in enrollment;

2. extends to FY 10 the education commissioner's authority, within available appropriations, to provide supplemental transportation grants to regional educational service centers (RESCs) for interdistrict magnet school transportation; and

3. entitles East Hartford to an Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant at least equal to its fixed grant entitlement for FY 09. (A “fixed entitlement” is a town's full ECS formula grant, excluding prior year adjustments. )

The act allows certain towns that no longer meet the qualifications for school readiness grants to continue to receive the grants. Under prior law, districts that no longer qualify receive phase-out grants for three years.

Lastly, if the funds appropriated for school readiness grants are not expended, the act authorizes the education commissioner to deposit them in a new competitive district grant account the act establishes and to use the funds under the act's provisions.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except the school readiness provisions are effective July 1, 2010.

MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT (MBR)

Under prior law, each town receiving an ECS grant had to budget at least the same amount for education in FY 10 and FY 11 as it budgeted in FY 09, minus any amount it subtracted from its FY 09 local education budget to offset federal funds its local or regional board of education received directly from the 2009 federal stimulus act.

This act allows any town that had fewer students enrolled in its schools in the 2009-10 school year than it did in the 2008-09 school year to reduce its MBR for FY 10 by $3,000 times the difference in the two enrollments. Thus, for example, if a district had 800 students enrolled in 2008 and 750 students in 2009, it could budget $150,000 less ($3,000 x 50) in FY 10 than it did in FY 09 and still meet its MBR for FY 10.

By law, a town that fails to meet its MBR must forfeit double the amount of the shortfall from its ECS grant for the fiscal year two years after the failure.

SUPPLEMENTAL INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION GRANTS

By law, magnet school operators that transport students to interdistrict magnet schools in a town other than the town where the students live are eligible to receive a grant for the cost of transporting them. The law caps the grant at $1,300 per student for most such transportation. But for districts helping to meet the goals of Sheff v. O'Neill, as determined by the education commissioner, the limits are $1,400 for FY 10 and $2,000 for FY 11.

For FY 09 only, prior law also allowed the commissioner, within available appropriations, to provide supplemental transportation grants to RESCs for interdistrict magnet school transportation. This act allows the commissioner to also provide such supplemental grants for FY 10. As under prior law, in order to provide the grant, the commissioner must review and approve the RESC's total interdistrict magnet school transportation budget, including all revenue and expenditure estimates.

SCHOOL READINESS GRANT PHASE-OUTS

Under prior law, a town that no longer meets the statutory requirements for a school readiness grant can receive a phase-out grant for three fiscal years following the last year it met eligibility requirements. The act changes this for a certain group of towns. It allows towns that are not priority school district towns, but are on the list of the 50 poorest towns (considering adjusted equalized net grand list, student population, and total population), to continue to receive the grant even if they no longer meet the requirements. This begins for FY 11 and each year after and applies to towns that were eligible for the grant and received one in FY 10.

The phase-out provision remains in place for priority school districts. The phase-out continues for districts from towns on the list of 50 poorest (excluding priority district towns) if the phase-out began in FY 09.

SCHOOL READINESS GRANT COMPETITIVE DISTRICT ACCOUNT

The act establishes a competitive district grant account as a separate, nonlapsing account within the General Fund. It must contain any funds the law requires be deposited in the account. The education commissioner must spend account funds to provide grants to competitive school districts to make slots available in preschool school readiness programs. The act requires the commissioner to deposit in this account any school readiness funds for priority school districts that are not expended and to use the funds as the act requires.

The act defines “competitive school district” as a district with more than 9,000 students that is also a priority school district or a district in a town on the list of 50 poorest in the state when considering adjusted equalized grand net list, student population, and population. Districts are eligible for phase-out grants if they no longer meet the requirements for school readiness grants.

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