Westport’s Budget: Reason Reigns

Washington may be dysfunctional.

Westport is not.

As we chug through the budget season, we’ve seen lots of things:

  • Clear, honest presentations
  • Tight finances, with logical — but hardly alarming — increases
  • Insightful questions, and fact-filled answers

Here is what we have not seen:

  • Partisanship
  • Gamesmanship
  • Rancor

There is still a ways to go. The Board of Finance must hold formal hearings on the town and education budgets, before a final vote. Then the RTM weighs in.

But so far, so good. Initial presentations by First Selectman Jim Marpe and Board of Ed chair Michael Gordon were met with praise from Finance members.

Town seal collage

“Thank you for the countless hours you put into this,” said Michael Rea. “You both put in fine budgets.”

“I feel so good about the budget numbers before us,” added Jennifer Tooker.

Westport’s budget process has not always been smooth. Past springs — though none recently — were filled with venom, personal attacks, and referendums.

Reasonable people can have reasonable differences, of course. But it seems that in Westport — if not in Washington — reason reigns.


2 responses to “Westport’s Budget: Reason Reigns

  1. Jim Marpe has done an excellent job of setting the vision for the town and building operational excellence to support the vision. This has served as an inspiration and blueprint for the Board of Education. With a proposed combined budget of 2.1% for FYE 2016 we are clearly on a sustainable track.

  2. It is great to see what appears to be more fiscal control with both the town budget and education. However, it would help to understand how the education budget was assembled. The reason–we have been spending on one-time type expenses over the last few years and why are we not seeing the savings from those not recurring. If the budget reflects the increase is in lieu of those savings, that would be great. But residents should have more information so we know.

    The Board of Education are people who donate their time to making our schools the best they can be. No doubt and we thank them for it. But the budget they set is huge and once agin we see an increase coming. It should be easy for the Board of Education to say they took into account the savings from these one time expenses and the addition is larger than the savings. Then we should be able to understand the increase is not just the 2% or so they claim.

    To remind residents what has occurred over the last several years–we spent a lot of money on remediation at a particular school–and spent even more than what was budgeted. Somehow Landon was able to hide addition spending by taking money out of other budget items. If these expenses are gone, should we see those savings in the budget? I say yes. We seem to have extra money in the ‘power’ budget for the schools as Landon was able to hide the charges by taking money from those accounts. So–should we see significant savings in those accounts? And with oil and gas down to low prices, should those budget items be at much lower levels in the school budget?

    I truly support our wonderful our schools and the need to keep them going. That is not the issue. If we do not have expenses that repeat, then should we not see the savings? Or are we spending even more than what we know today?

    I share with everyone pieces of recent articles to remind residents of some of the extra spending that went on. I just ask for more information. If we use those savings in the calculation of the budget–then wonderful. We know that we saved some money but needed to spend even more. But we should know if those savings were used in the current budget process. Just asking.

    Here are some of the articles:
    Facing harsh criticism of the Finance Committee, Wednesday school Elliot Langdon, Superintendent of juggling between $ 1.65 million for the defence did not tell town officials, because he thought the lead during the four-year budget account and the mold cleanup in Kings Road primary school, “emergencies”. But he promised not to repeat the unauthorized financing practices. Ongoing internal audit school expenses has revealed a $ 1,649,969 deficit in the Kings Highway in heating, ventilation and air conditioning works filled with school administrators, transfer money from operating budgets utility, maintenance and project accounts to meet the capital project, originally scheduled to cost $2,878,000, but soared to $ 4,527,969 in costs.

    For the past few months health insurance costs have overshadowed school budget process due to what was described initially as a $2 million health insurance fund shortfall in the 2013-14 budget blamed on unexpected, exorbitant claims. Monday, however, that shortfall was revealed to be a $293,000 surplus. The reasons: thousands of dollars in positive variances in the board’s health account over the past couple months, as compared to its projections based on surprisingly negative variances last year, the driver of the deficit.

    Dr. Landon has requested $1.88 million from the Board of Finance to cover the clean-up costs, including $752,000 to replace carpeting and $868,000 for brick repointing. An additional $88,000 was approved to put the committee’s recommendations in effect, including improving the ventilation system and additional testing.

    More recent numbers are available for the spending of all the school districts in Connecticut. In 2010-11, Darien spent $15,616.13 per student, New Canaan spent $16,991 and Wilton spent $15,664.
    Stamford spent $16,302; Norwalk spent $15,509; Greenwich, $18,516; Westport, $17,435; Ridgefield, $14,111; and Fairfield, $14,379.