Peaceable Kingdom

As the country is consumed by partisan rancor, here in Westport kumbaya reigns.

Last night’s Board of Finance vote on the education budget featured none of the fuming and fulmination that sometimes characterizes Westport’s own March madness.

Instead, members of both parties went out of their way to praise the Board of Education‘s work — and that of the town’s teachers and administrators.

The  finance board then voted unanimously to cut just $250,000 from the proposed operating budget — coming from technology, not personnel — and also unanimously passed the total education budget of $112.42 million (which includes aid to private and parochial schools, long-term debt service, and debt service on bond anticipation notes).

Also unanimously, the Board of Finance approved the total town budget of $178.64 million.

It was all over in little more than an hour.  No finger-pointing.  No rancor.  No bile or bluster.

Senators, congressmen:  Are you listening?

Last night's Board of Finance meeting was like the Peaceable Kingdom.

19 responses to “Peaceable Kingdom

  1. If you read the budget closely you would have seen that all the BOF did was kick the problem down the road. The unfunded liabilities are not going away, and the unsustainable rises in personnel costs are not going away. It is east to spend OPM.

  2. The Dude Abides

    Does the long term debt include funding of the town employee pensions??

    • The BOF and the BOE and the whole town of Westport have almost nothing to do with funding educators’ pensions. Educators pay roughly 7% of their post-tax income into the state pension fund.

      That’s not to say that double-dipping, especially among education administrators, doesn’t occur. And that leads to lower priced administrators not being promoted, older administrators hanging onto jobs, no perceptible avenue of advancement, etc.

      • The Dude Abides

        I didn’t ask about teachers. My understanding is that the pensions of the town employees are underfunded???

    • It has been reported that there is a $14 million unfunded pension liability.

  3. Using the BOE projections for the student population next year, we are spending roughly $19,500 per student. For a class of 20 students we are spending approximately $390,000 per year.

    • According to Dr L, dollars-per-student is not a valid way to measure cost or compare performance between school districts. The budget is much too complicated for any of us to understand.
      That said, it’s also naive to say that we’ll hold the line on the total budget when there are contracted salary increases and more students every year.

    • That position certainly suits Landon. In reality the budget is not that hard to understand. What other districts spend is largely irrelevant. The BOE estimates that there will be FEWER students on opening day 2011 than there were on opening day 2010.

  4. westporter95

    Time to trim administration. You could easily save $250,000 by making cuts in the amount of vice principals throughout the system, especially at Staples where there are 4! There used to be less VPs and even more students at the high school. You could also freeze raises to administration.

    • Empire building is expensive.

    • Look at the list of the top paid 25 employees a few years ago and you would see a few classroom teachers who boosted their salaries by putting in long after school coaching hours. Now teachers who do this are far below the lowest paid administrators. Look at the top paid 25 employees and it is all school administrators. the next 25 are probably also school administrators. Westport has become the town where administrators want to go.

  5. Dick Lowenstein

    Regarding the dialog above, Mr. Liepolt is partially correct. BOE employees not covered by the tremendously underfunded State pension plans, ARE covered under the Town’s plan and that liability is approximately 15% of the Town’s total. The RTM is expecting more precise numbers before we vote on the 2011-2012 budgets.

  6. Another way to evaluate the budget is to measure the results and the return on our investment in education. It seems that our students do grow to be productive and caring citizens, and as a result, even more valued members of society.
    Suggested reading from The Washington Post:
    The life lessons Mr. Trautwein taught me

  7. Siobhan Crise

    To The Dude …
    My understanding is that that long-term debt does not involve pensions at all.

    • Unfunded pension liabilities do not show up as debt, but they are a liability.