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Friday, January 19 News

New Milford mayor apologizes for Children’s Center data disclosure

NEW MILFORD — Mayor Pete Bass last week apologized for the previous administration’s disclosure of financial data pertaining to families who are clients of the Children’s Center.

Bass said former Mayor David Gronbach wrongly disclosed that data last summer, when he questioned why the center provides state-subsidized day care to some families earning more than $100,000 a year.

Gronbach referred to the income data, which did not identify families by name, in a Facebook post and in a letter to the News-Times. He later released the data to Hearst Connecticut Media under a public records request.

Days after Gronbach’s post, the state Office of Early Childhood wrote the town that it constituted “breach of contract” with the state by disclosing “family-level personal information that is considered confidential.”

Gronbach did not return a call seeking comment.

Bass, who was running against Gronbach at the time, said enrolling higher-income families helps ensure that the center serves a mix of children from different socioeconomic groups.

In a news release, Bass said the state “was very clear prior to my taking office that a letter of apology was required from the town” in order to preserve a $325,000 state grant to the town.

Gronbach’s post and letter said he had learned that five of the center’s families were making more than $100,000 a year. He argued that state-subsidized spots, which make up about half the center’s enrollment, should be reserved for lower-income families.

Gronbach said at the time, and Children’s Center officials confirmed, that all of the families receiving state subsidies, including those earning more than $100,000, were eligible under state income guidelines. Under those guidelines, families are eligible for subsidies as long as they make less than 75 percent of the state median income, adjusted for family size.

Nevertheless, Gronbach wrote, “From what I have heard about the motivation to support the ‘working poor,’ not many of us would classify someone making over $100,000 as ‘working poor.’ Something about the current priorities is not right when a family making over $100,000 takes the subsidized spot of a single parent making a fraction of that.”

blytton@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3411; @bglytton

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