Substitute Senate Bill 1019 (S.B. 1019; General Assembly File No. 539) reads as follows:
Section 1. (Effective from passage) Notwithstanding the provisions of part III of chapter 164 of the general statutes or any plan of representation established by the State Board of Education, pursuant to section 10-63s of the general statutes, any vote taken by the regional board of education for the Region 15 school district on a proposal relating to the budget for said district shall require at least one member of said board from each member town to be in the majority for approval of such proposal.
We write as a united and bipartisan Board of Selectmen to voice our strong opposition to S.B. 1019, a bill which seeks to eliminate the equitable system currently in place in Region 15's successful partnership between Southbury and Middlebury residents.
Southbury residents currently fund approximately 70% of the Region 15 budget and the votes of the Region 15 Board of Education are weighted so that each member town receives a proportional vote.
S.B. 1019 would change this voting structure and would require that a Board of Education member of each member town vote in the majority on any budgetary matters. The practical effect based on today’s population is to provide the town of Middlebury with de facto veto power over any Region 15 budget. It would unfairly reduce the voice of Southbury residents, who currently fund most of the budget. Moreover, S.B. 1019 would seem to violate state and federal constitutional principles by unfairly allowing the minority to rule over the majority.
This bill is poorly conceived and explicitly targets Southbury residents by eliminating their ability to determine how to spend their tax dollars. The bill would also have a potentially devastating domino effect on regional school districts across the State, especially given today’s challenging economic climate with the State asking towns to bear a tremendous financial burden to continue to deliver the highest possible quality 21st Century public education to its most vulnerable citizens.
We admire and value the students, faculty, staff and administration who have made Region 15 a model of educational excellence in the State. It is our responsibility to ensure that Southbury’s tax dollars are being spent as Southbury taxpayers decide. We will not allow 70 cents of each tax dollar spent by our residents to be wholly controlled by another town. To do so would be unreasonable and place an extraordinary burden on Southbury residents.
Every resident of Southbury and Middlebury has benefited from our long and successful educational partnership that has thrived under the equitable system that gives both towns a fair voice. S.B. 1019 would negatively impact this successful partnership and eliminate the fairness that has allowed the system to flourish over these many years.
If S.B. 1019 becomes law we will be required to explore all options available to protect the interests of Southbury residents and to maintain the quality of public education offered to our children.
This is not a partisan issue, but is instead an issue of fundamental fairness, process and the rule of law. We encourage all members of the General Assembly to vote against this unfair and unjust bill.
S.B. 1019 is currently pending in the State Senate. We urge all residents to voice opposition to S.B. 1019 as soon as possible by contacting Senate leadership, including Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore, Senator Martin M. Looney, and Senate Republican President Pro Tempore, Senator Len Fasano. We also urge residents to contact the senators representing Region 15: Senator Eric Berthel (R) and Senator Joan Hartley (D).
State Senate Contact Information:
We further urge our residents to contact House leadership and those in the House that represent Region 15, including: Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, Majority Leader Matthew Ritter, House Republican Leader Themis Klarides, and Representatives Arthur O’Neill, David Labriola, and Anthony D’Amelio.
State House Contact Information:
Town of Southbury Board of Selectmen:
Jeffrey Manville, First Selectman (R)
George Bertram, Selectman (R)
Justin Bette, Selectman (D)
Jason Buchsbaum, Selectman (R)
Jennifer Naylor, Selectman (R)
Mike Rosen, Selectman (D)