Budgets: 2. Drama: 0.

Something was missing this week, when the RTM considered Westport’s 2 budgets.

Rancor.

On Monday night, the legislative body unanimously approved $79 million in town spending for 2015-16. That’s a 2.51% increase over the current year. Included in the funding: $37,714 previously cut from the Transit District.

Last night, the vote was again unanimous: $111 million for the Board of Education. That’s a cut of $300,000 from what the Board of Finance approved in March; it’s up 1.8% from last year.

RTM members praised Jim Marpe’s administration, the superintendent of schools and  Board of Ed for the care and scrutiny with which they prepared their requests.

Westport sealBudget season in Westport used to be high drama. Proponents claimed that every dollar was sacrosanct to the future of Westport. Opponents shouted that massive cuts were needed to avoid fiscal ruin. Invective would spew. Referendums were threatened (or actually held). Things got ugly.

And the next year, the same thing happened all over again.

Budget season has been quiet for a while now. A couple of elements are at work.

Selectmen, the superintendent and Board of Ed have been prudent and honest in their requests. They’ve worked closely with the Board of Finance to understand what’s realistic — and the Board of Finance has worked hard to understand realistic requests.

All sides have tried to balance the all-important (and very elusive) concept of “quality of Westport life” with the economic realities of the 21st century.

Political posturing has been replaced with true bipartisanship.

Westport Public  SchoolsNo one in Westport threatens a government shutdown. No one wants to sequester funds. No one panders to a special set of constituents or supporters. That’s the way democracy works. Or it’s supposed to, anyway.

We haven’t heard a lot of names of local politicians lately. Many Westporters don’t even know who is chairman of the Board of Finance (John Pincavage) or Board of Ed (Michael Gordon). One is a Republican. The other’s a Democrat. Together, they and their boards govern effectively — and without egos.

The Board of Finance sets the official mill rate 2 weeks from today. A minimal increase is expected from the current 17.94.

17 responses to “Budgets: 2. Drama: 0.

  1. Bobbie Herman

    Maybe we should send them all to Washington.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      It wouldn’t work, it’s something in the water down there! Seemingly rational and pragmatic folk can start frothing at the mouth after spending less than 24 hours in our nation’s capital.

  2. Stephanie Bass

    Very nice, Doug. Now, who wants to get into the betting pool as to how soon Elliot Landon will ask for more $$$$ — or as a friend of mine used to say, “get you by the peripherals?”

    • Who is “Doug”? And actually, there was a $500,000 surplus in the current budget. It came from not hiring 3 teachers, and retirements of others. The funds will be spent on school maintenance.

  3. Stephanie Bass

    Sorry, Dan. Was thinking about some other guy….still, bet you $5 he asks for more $$$. Take the bet?

  4. Susan Hopkins

    What a relief. We had a surfeit of ugly via Brandy Melville.

  5. Stephen Axthelm

    I’m continually impressed by the “work it out” mentality in our town goverment and the determination to be the best town we can be, even when the choices are tough. Well done!

  6. Bart Shuldman

    When we elect people, not based on party but on intelligence, commitment to the focus on costs and execution with a knowledge of business who want to see the town succeed, we win. I can speak about Jim Marpe, he is a good man with the experience and desire to lead this town. Not for himself but for all of us with an understanding that spending creates issues.

    Congrats to Westport. And thank you Jim, John and Michael. Your dedication to Westport is much appreciated.

  7. James Ezzes

    Dan:
    Read your story with interest. There is some significant historical misinformation but that aside please refresh my memory. I don’t recall that there was a referendum or even threat of a referendum in the past 25 or more years. And in Connecticut a referendum is not brought by the administration or a political party. It is brought by members of the public and petitions.

  8. Dan,
    I completely agree with your assessment. I think I can say that I am qualified to add some additional color to your article. The answer is bi-partisanship. With Jim Marpe’s help, I put bi-partisanship it in place on the Board of Education. Shortly thereafter, Avi Kaner did the same on the Board of Finance. Westport’s two major boards now work on real solutions without regard to party affiliation and that is very good for Westport. This following quotation has been attributed to a number of people from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. No matter who said it first, I wish our representatives on Washington would embrace it a bit more: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
    Keep up the good work, Dan.

  9. Bart Shuldman

    While we have a solid team of leaders watching over our budgets-expenses and revenues, please know the opposite is happening in Hartford with our Governor. TAXES ARE GOING UP AGAIN. Please don’t shoot the messenger, but he can not understand that giving away benefits and overtime and pensions that you cannot afford will eventually come back to haunt you. Now Hartford is looking at not only raising income taxes and making it retroactive to January (he did this just a few years back) but now we will have to not taxes in such services as dry cleaning and golf. Yes-longshore will have to raise green fees to collect the new taxes.

    Here is the list of services you will have to pay taxes:

    More than two dozen services would be subject to the full sales tax including:

    Accounting;
    Engineering and drafting;
    Building inspection;
    Data processing;
    Dry cleaning and laundry – excluding coin-operated.
    Gambling industries;
    Geographical surveying and mapping;
    Golf courses and country clubs.
    Human resources consulting;
    Interior design;
    Industrial design;
    Management consulting;
    Marketing consulting and research;
    Scientific consulting;
    Translation and interpreting services;
    Veterinary services.

  10. Michael Calise

    Our town has been evolving in to a continuous string of more sensible budgeting and spending. The election of Jim Marpe was the frosting on the cake!

  11. KENDALL ANDERSON

    My beloved husband, Gavin Anderson, would be so happy if he could read this blog and the comments.