Letter: Danbury enrollment spike leads to funding, transparency concerns

Danbury Democratic candidate for mayor Chris Setaro revealed this week that the school district is facing a more than five percent spike in enrollment and school officials are calling for an emergency appropriation to cover funding shortfalls.

School Superintendent Sal Pascarella said during a school board meeting Wednesday night that the school district "can't get through the year" without a special appropriation of $1.3 million.

Setaro called on Mayor Mark Boughton to explain why he cut school funding earlier this year while enrollment was rising, leading to a last-minute desperate plea for additional aid from the Superintendent.

“Two weeks after school starts there’s a $1.3 million funding crisis in Danbury schools, which are consistently underfunded,” Setaro said. “Mark Boughton refuses to fund our schools and would rather spend $4 million on granite sidewalks. There’s either a lack of planning or a lack of transparency or both.”

On September 6th, Danbury Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sal Pascarella wrote to the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, stating:

“...I am taking the extreme step of writing this letter to request consideration of an emergency supplemental appropriation from the State...even though it is outside of the normal appropriation process...I am requesting immediate consideration of some kind of financial relief to assist us in providing appropriate services to all of Danbury’s children in this 2019-20 school year.”

In a letter addressed to Board of Education members, Pascarella states:

“In the last thirty (30) days, we have witnessed an unprecedented and alarming increase in new student registrations that will further strain our ability to provide an appropriate education to our students under our approved budget...we are estimating a net increase of 350 students K-12...we have an obligation to find classroom seats, assign faculty and provide bus transportation.”

Pascarella also stated that Mark Boughton promised an additional $600,000 for special education costs, even though did not raise the issue during a City Council meeting last week or disclosed how the money would be appropriated. 

“Because of an election year budget, our Superintendent of schools has been left begging for help so our kids can get the education they deserve. I don’t see how it’s possible that this was something no one anticipated. The City approved thousands of condominium units over 18 years of the Boughton administration. How could the planning be this misguided?” Setaro said.