Winchester Might Have to Close All Public Schools

The northwestern Connecticut town of Winchester is asking the state for help with a financial crisis it fears might shut down all three of the community's public schools in December.

The superintendent told the state board of education that the district cannot make its payroll.

Part of the problem is the disappearance of millions of dollars in town funds. Last year, state police arrested Henry Centrella Jr., the town’s former finance director, on several larceny charges after a town audit revealed that $2 million was unaccounted for between January 2008 and November 2012.

Local school officials have gone to the state to ask for an advance in state funding, but it might not be possible for legal reasons.

In August, Supt. Thomas Danehy wrote to the town and state officials, painting a dire picture of the financial situation for the schools. He wrote that the town had hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue bills and that utilities might be shut off because of nonpayment.

The town does have insurance, but it has only received payment on one policy, so the Winchester does not have the funds to bail out the school district, town officials said.

"We have limited funds available because of the former finance director, but I'm confident that we'll be able to get through it," Town Manager Dale Martin said.

In September, the local school board asked the state to investigate whether the town was meeting its obligations to educate students of the town, according to the Register Citizen.

That issue was brought up on Wednesday at the state board of education and the members voted to investigate the local board of education and town funds, according to the Citizen.

Town officials are also considering a tax to cover the costs, but Martin said he's trying to avoid that by calling banks and asking for a loan.

Centrella, who has not entered a plea, according to online court records, is due in court on October 8.

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