$500K coming for Science Center move

From this week’s State Bond Commission agenda: 

DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GRANT-IN-AID TO THE TOWN OF WEST HARTFORD, FOR SITE ACQUISITION AND IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE SCIENCE CENTER OF CONNECTICUT

REQUESTED: An Allocation and Bond Authorization (to agency) $500,000

FROM: Sec. 32 (j)(20) Acct. No. 12052-ECD46000-43090

Total Earmarking $500,000

Previous Allocations – 0 –

Balance Unallocated $500,000

REASON FOR REQUEST:

These funds are requested to provide a grant-in-aid to the Town of West Hartford for site acquisition, and necessary renovations and improvements to allow for the relocation of the Children’s Museum formerly known as the Science Center of Connecticut into the Elmwood section of the town.

Total Grant-in-Aid, This Request $500,000

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24 Comments

Filed under Elmwood, Science Center of Connecticut

24 responses to “$500K coming for Science Center move

  1. Osemasterofdoom

    Boooooo. I hate that the Science Center is moving. Elmwood gets everything.

  2. Rick Liftig

    OSE !

    There are a lot of reasons for this move. The biggest is that the Children’s Museum property was sold to K-O School several years ago. That was not an easy decision for previous Board members of the museum as it was necessitated by finances (or lack therof). The move is providing impetus for TCM to re-think how it carries out its mission and to find ways to avoid competition with the Downtown Science Center.

    The possible Elmwood location has incredible access to the Trout Brook and will be adjacent to the greenway/bike path. And, it will provide a very important piece for Elmwood’s growth – a cultural anchor. Retail anchors are great, but they come and go. Schools, museums, libraries and governmental offices provide destinations with relatively more permanence.

    This won’t be an easy move. A lot of heavy lifting will need to be done. The museum has been at Trout Brook Drive since 1958… it’s sort of like cleaning out your parent’s house times 10!

  3. Rick Liftig

    I almost forgot – VBG! Elmwood does get all the attention, doesn’t it!

  4. Mike

    And it gets Kevin Sullivan as Executive Director. Congrats to him, and here’s hoping they do a great job with the move.

  5. MFM

    Let’s work to make sure the Museum stays in West Hartford. As you may know there is an excellent, high quality, nationally accredidated preschool program associated with the Museum that serves over 100 families during the school year. In addition, it has a fantastic summer camp and conducts outreach programs to preschools in the Greater Hartford community. With a move to Elmwood, there could be a greater opportunity to encourage low income families from the Hillcrest neighborhood to utilize the museum and possibly the preschool. I know that Kevin Sullivan will be a great advocate for children and families in West Hartford!

  6. I didn’t know West Hartford had low-income families, but I do remember that area. A friend of mine lived there. Pretty crappy apartment, but it was a quiet neighborhood. I was planning on visiting that place with my girlfriend and her son. guess I can wait though.

  7. Harry Captain

    Today’s West Hartford is NOT the WH of “Leave it to Beaver” fame of the 1960’s and ‘70’s – well-off, white, 2 parents at home, with Mom in the kitchen coiffed/pleated dress/pearls and Dad in suit/shaven/pipe on early weekend mornings reading the paper… but some folks think it still is.

    During the last budget battle, many a senior asked me why taxpayers pay for “those kids” that “obviously don’t live in WH?”. One senior recently asked if we “changed the lines” defining the Conard and Hall districts because clearly “more of them are going to Hall” and “you know, Hall isn’t white and Jewish anymore.” If I force myself past the bigotry/prejudice and rationally analyze what’s left from the questions/statements, I get to 2 “perception is reality” theories:

    1.) Many seniors believe that WH either OVER participates in Project Choice or that out-of-district students are in WH classrooms illegally (not WH residents). (Project Choice is a program that places Hartford children in suburban schools – limited state funding comes to WH with each Hartford student placed. WH participates on a “space as available” basis.)
    2.) There are some seniors, again some that raised their children here 2/3 decades ago, that believe the wealth/race/ethnic/religious make-up of WH is what it was 25 years ago.

    In today’s West Hartford, the facts are that:
    1.) In the 2006/7 academic year, there were 77 Open Choice students in WH’s total enrollment of 10,117 (less than 1%). Regarding non-residents, the Residency Office has 1 full-time employee and engages up to 3 part-time investigators, on an “as-needed” basis, responsible for investigating student residency.
    2.) 14.3% of WH students are eligible for Free/Reduced-Price Meals as compared to an average of 5.2% in our District Reference Group (DRG) B. The DRG is a classification of districts whose students’ families are similar in education, income, occupation, and need, and that have roughly similar enrollment. WH’s total minority public school enrollment was 33.5% last year. If you were to assume all 77 Open Choice students (0.7%) are minority, a conservative assumption, then the remaining 32.8% are minority students that live in WH.

    West Hartford’s Strategic School Profile 2006-07 can be found at:
    http://www.whps.org/board/agenda-documents/20071204/strategic%20school%20profile.pdf

    Today’s West Hartford is a vibrant, naturally diverse community. Our successful Town should be heralded as a model for others.

  8. Elliot Check

    Hi Harry, It was a pleasure talking with you during the campaign/election cycle.

    Since you are the only Board member that posts here, you get the honor of this question.

    You mention that there are 77 project choice kids in the WH School System. It is my understanding the WH is reimbursed $2000/student. The education budget in this town breaks down to ~$11K/ student.

    So the question is why are the citizens of WH paying 77x ($11000-$2000)=$693K for Hartford students?

    We have 77 students that are free riding on the system. The excuse I’ve heard for this arrangement is that they are taking open seats and not crowding the system. But, the BOE still has increased expenses to meet – heating, benefits, salaries etc. – The BOE could use the full reimbursement to meet it’s obligations and the citizens of WH could use the tax relief.

  9. Harry Captain

    Elliot is correct (although his $ reimbursement number might be off – but close) in that WH’s per pupil spending cost far exceeds the amount of money received for each Project Choice student.

    We try to place Open Choice students in WH at the beginning of their career, during elementary school. We place them in elementary classrooms where the space is available, so as NOT to have to hire additional staff and add expense.

    The board believes that the per-pupil cost of educating a Project Choice child in Hartford should “follow” the student to West Hartford. Earlier this year, the board decided to draft a letter to the State with this message.

    Hartford’s argument is that if the $ follows the child, Hartford will be drained of $ for the children that remain in Hartford. West Hartford’s argument is that although WH is trying to help, WH taxpayers shouldn’t have subsidize Hartford twice – once by the higher amount of ECS to Hartford and twice by educating a Hartford student in WH and paying ¾ of the cost.

    Towns would participate more in Project Choice if there was an incentive to do so, NOT a disincentive. And wouldn’t that HELP more Hartford students?

  10. Elliot Check

    Thanks Harry,

    unfortunately, I don’t think the State or Hartford will do anything until WH decides to get tough.
    The current budget battles going on in the WH BOE may very well force this issue.

  11. Elliot Check

    BTW Harry,

    fully reimbursement would have meant that last year the BOE would have had to cut $1mill from the budget, rather than $1.7mill.

    What programs/teachers could have been kept with that extra cash?

  12. Philk

    Elliot (and Harry too), I think you’re confusing the average cost per student with the incremental cost of adding 1 (or 77) more. I don’t know the actual marginal cost of these additional students, but it’s got to be way less than $11K.

    The heating bill is the same whether they are there or not. Teacher’s salaries are the same, whether they are there or not.

    If we have the same number of teachers, schools, administrators etc. serving 10,117 students as it would take to serve 10,040, it’s cost us a few textbooks and some subsidized lunch.

  13. Elliot Check

    PhilK, I understand what your saying.

    But 77 kids are freeriding on the system while programs are being cut in West Hartford.

    The $700K is alot more than a few subsidized lunches and textbooks. Last spring we were cutting Quest and letting language instructors go. The heating bills, electrical bills, employee benefits and contracts are all going up. The town can’t afford that number of students in the system without reimbursement.

    Some one is paying taxes for these students but it is not finding its’ way to West Hartford. These tax $$$$ should follow the students.

  14. Philk

    But it’s not a free ride. The town is getting paid $2K per student. And it’s not $700K. That was the point of my post. My point is that the program runs at something close to break even.

    While I admit the textbook line was hyperbole, the fact is that all those things going up you mentioned are going to go up whether or not those 77 kids are there.

    If you want more money for those kids, go for it. Why not make the program a profit center for the town?

  15. David Jones

    Whatever the incremental cost of the project choice students, the fact remains that every town has budget issues.

    And the city of Hartford is being paid twice as much (or more) not to educate the students as the town of West Hartford is paid to educate the students.

    It’s easy to see how some people would feel that’s not an equitable system. Consider me one of those people.

  16. turtle

    Wow. There are some pretty cold sentiments being expressed here. The Courant recently reported an estimated 41% illiteracy rate among adult Hartford residents, and about 43% of Hartford children are living in poverty. 43%!!

    But yeah, let’s get tough with Hartford over Project Choice. Because 77 kids are freeriding on the system and the citizens of WH could use the tax relief!

    Looks like a case of misplaced sense of outrage to me.

  17. Elliot Check

    We know Hartford has problems. Those problems were created by Hartford.

    We also know Hartford is collecting property taxes to educate these kids.

    West Hartford is nice enough to accept 77 kids from Hartford. Hartford keeps the cash. West Hartford is shorted $9K/student, and gets to cut programs.

    It’s not like Education $$$ don’t exist for these kids, the money is being kept in Hartford and not following them.

    Should the budget shortfall be only $700K this year which programs would you like to see cut?

  18. turtle

    Those problems were created by Hartford.

    Globalization was created by Hartford? Put up a monument!

  19. Gary Reger

    It’s lots of fun to play the “who’s the biggest freeloader” game! And it’s easy!

    Let’s take some data from the 2000 census (the 2006 data for West Hartford isn’t available on the Census website).

    In 2000, West Hartford consisted of about 26,600 households. Median household income was $61,665. That means the total income for the Town was about $1.6 billion. (Hey, that’s a lot of money!)

    Let’s make a guess now. Let’s guess that 25% of West Hartford households earn their income because the wage-earners are employed in Hartford. That means that about $410 million was earned by West Hartfordites in Hartford! And Hartford doesn’t see a penny of our property tax payments because we pay in West Hartford!

    Hey, what would happen if we didn’t have Hartford? We’d lose 25% of our property tax revenue! That would be a bit of a bind, eh? Good thing we can freeload off the city of Hartford to keep our lifestyles cookin’!

  20. David Jones

    Nothing cold about what I’m saying. Hartford children and Hartford parents who wish to get a good education have a raw deal. I would be delighted to be a part of the solution. But this doesn’t mean I support a totally illogical system.

    And I’m not someone who suggested these children are freeloading so please don’t associate that statement with me. But I am suggesting the dollars should go to the school system that educates the child. Just seems to make sense.

    And this argument that we’re somehow taking advantage of Hartford by working there without paying property taxes doesn’t really pass the smell test.

    I assume that most of these properties employing West Hartford residents are indeed paying substantial property taxes to Hartford and that Hartford is much better off financially because these office buildings are in the city.

    So another way of looking at it is that all those West Hartford residents working in Hartford make it economically feasible for these properties to exist, otherwise Hartford wouldn’t be collecting those commercial property taxes.

    Let me suggest that this argument is as silly as the one that suggests we’re somehow getting a free ride by working there without paying property taxes.

    I find it insulting that if someone disagrees with a given program they are somehow labeled as cold hearted or uncaring. Another case of the rich having no compassion for the poor.

    And yes, I do believe that the residents of Hartford are the ones largely at fault for the predicament of the schools. This is a sentiment shared by many of my liberal friends as well as many educators who would describe themselves as liberal. Of course they can’t say that publicly.

    Even so, I want these sudents to get a good education and would love to be part of the solution. But I have yet to see a proposal that really addresses the problem. When I do I’ll be first in line to lend a hand. I believe it’s time to listen to Bill Cosby instead of Jesse Jackson.

  21. Philk

    “Should the budget shortfall be only $700K this year which programs would you like to see cut?”

    To beat a dead horse, kicking 77 kids out of West Hartford will not save $700K. It won’t save anything. You’ll lose $154K in revenue, and your expenses will be virtually unchanged.

    77 kids in 13 grades is about 6 per grade. Roughly 1/2 a kid per elementary school.

    Please point out to me some cost that can be eliminated if you kick out these kids.

    I’ll go out on a limb: we make money on them. Your argument is that we should make more money on them.

  22. Elliot Check

    The question none of you has answered is if we are taking in Hartford students why should Hartford get to keep the cash?

    I understand, it is a nice gesture to offer to educate these kids in better schools. But, taxes are being collected to educate them and those $$$ are not following the kids.

    With your logic:
    Since we are well behind Avon in the Mastery Tests.
    And since we want our kids to get a good education.
    Why don’t we send a bunch of kids to Avon reimburse them $2K/child, and let them do the job and apparently do it better. And we’ll still have the tax $$ here for our budget.

    Maybe if we did this we wouldn’t have to redistrict a couple of schools.

  23. Philk

    Hartford keeps the cash because there is no such thing as “the cash.” When public schools start charging tuition, we can discuss whether Hartford or West Hartford gets the tuition. What you refer to as “the cash” is a number you made up based on the average total expenditure per pupil. When you are talking about whether or not to take on 77 kids, this is simply the wrong measure.

    You haven’t answered my question about what expenses could actually be saved by turning away 77 kids and the attached $154K that comes with them. Until you do, I will assert that we profit from their $2K per student. What will you cut to make up for the lost $100K in revenue?

    If West Hartford can get more money per student from the state or Hartford, that would be great. But the status quo is nothing to get indignant about.

    Regarding Avon, let’s be Republican about this: if Avon is willing to take a kid from West Hartford for $2K, the West Hartford kid should be free to go. Should Avon take $2K? It depends on whether or not they have the capacity to add students without increasing expenses. Call it school choice, or free market principles applied to public education.

  24. Wow, that was quite a quick jump from good news about The Children’s Musuem to a whole different stream. Anyway, thanks to MFM for the vote of confidence in my new role as President and CEO of our science and nature center. As one friend said, it’s a perfect match after over 20 years working with animals in state government

    The Children’s Musuem is an amazing place — strong board, talented staff, and a place of learning and family fun. If you have’nt experienced the new Travelers Science Dome, visit us during school vacation week. As we pursue our new home and even more of an educational mission, the best is yet to come.

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