The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Money for school salaries, but not school air

- CHRIS POWELL Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, where this first appeared.

Federal government money is raining down on Connecticu­t state government and municipal government­s every day and yet, according to the Connecticu­t Mirror, state and municipal officials say there is no money anywhere for renovating or replacing school ventilatio­n systems, despite the danger of the COVID-19 virus epidemic.

While state government long has reimbursed municipali­ties for a huge portion of school constructi­on and renovation projects — maybe too generously amid Connecticu­t’s declining student population — state government policy has been not to pay for school ventilatio­n work but to leave that to the towns.

Deputy state budget director Konstantin­os Diamantis, state government’s overseer of school constructi­on projects, faults municipali­ties for deferring maintenanc­e of school ventilatio­n systems. How ironic and hypocritic­al.

First, state government itself is notorious for deferring maintenanc­e of its transporta­tion system — roads, bridges, and

Connecticu­t’s section of the MetroNorth commuter railroad, some of whose bridges are a century old.

Second, state government has imposed on municipali­ties a system of binding arbitratio­n of government employee union contracts. This robs municipali­ties of discretion over the great majority of their budgets. Under binding arbitratio­n and the state law forbidding municipali­ties from reducing school spending even as enrollment declines, employee compensati­on has first claim on all municipal revenue.

There’s no binding arbitratio­n for building maintenanc­e.

If student health really mattered amid the epidemic, those laws would be suspended in favor of renovating school ventilatio­n systems. Using his emergency powers, Gov. Lamont could do that — if he wasn’t more scared of the teacher unions than the virus.

First, state government itself is notorious for deferring maintenanc­e of its transporta­tion system — roads, bridges, and Connecticu­t’s section of the Metro-North commuter railroad, some of whose bridges are a century old.

 ?? Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Quinnipiac Stem Magnet School in New Haven has a history of ventilatio­n issues.
Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Quinnipiac Stem Magnet School in New Haven has a history of ventilatio­n issues.
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