With the budget season in full swing, the Board of Education presents its figures to the Board of Finance this Thursday (March 29, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall — it’s a public meeting).
Among the key points to be made by chairman Don O’Day:
The Board of Ed has weathered 3 years of budget reductions. Each year, its budget has been reduced by the Board of Finance and RTM to levels below the contractually required salary increases for the union staff (94% of the total 872 Board of Ed employees). In response, they’ve cut — while delivering great services. That quiver may no longer hold any arrows.
This year, the Board of Ed made the very tough decision to reduce staff — and not through attrition. They did it before the Board of Finance and/or RTM told them to — to $300,000 below the contractual salary increases. They hope that in return, the Board of Finance affirms the budget — resisting the temptation to cut further, for the sake of cutting.
(Staff has been reduced by 28 positions — 3% — since the market crash of 2008. Enrollment, meanwhile, is up by 50 students.)
The Board of Ed denied a proposal to add more money to the budget, in order to lower elementary school class sizes. Yet as enrollment increases, and dollars become scarce, larger classes loom at Staples. We’re talking 25+ in some required subjects.
Once again, Westport is at the low end within its District Reference Group (similar towns), for annual budget increases. And once again, Staples is rated the #1 high school in Connecticut — and Coleytown and Bedford are the #1 and #2 middle schools, respectively, in the Conncan assessment.
In addition, the Board of Ed switched insurance carriers. Meanwhile– pretty impressively — overall health benefit costs have been held flat.
The Board of Education’s goal is to do whatever it can to save money — without impacting services. Starting Thursday night, it gets the chance to hear what the town thinks of its plan.