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RTM Passes Town, Education Budgets

Westport has a budget for the next fiscal year.

Actually, we have 2. This week, the Representative Town Meeting approved both the town and education budgets.

Here is Peter Gold’s report on the May 3 and 4 RTM meetings. He is an RTM member and a director of the Westport Transit District writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

At back-to-back meetings this week, the RTM approved a total town and education budget of $220,814,210. That’s approximately 2.65% more than the current year.

On May 3 the RTM passed the town budget for the fiscal year ending June 20, 2022 of $77,103,992 — a 2.2% increase over the current year.

It also approved several smaller budgets for Earthplace, Westport Library, Westport-Weston Health District, Westport Transit District, railroad parking and Wakeman Town Farm, for a grand total of $85,509,447. That is a 2.59% increase over the current year.

Over 80% of the town’s budget goes to 4 areas: public safety (30%), funding for pensions and other post-employment benefits such as retiree health care (27%), public works (15%) and parks and recreation (9%).

All budgets except for Westport Transit District were unchanged from the budget recommended by the Board of Finance, and all passed unanimously.

In a 32-1 vote, the RTM restored $157,500 cut by the Board of Finance from the Westport Transit District‘s budget for its Wheels2U shuttle service introduced last October. The RTM took note of the letters it received from over 100 individuals and organizations in support of restoring the funds. RTM members also felt the pandemic made it difficult to fairly evaluate the Wheels2U service, and that it should be given a chance to prove itself as life returns closer to normal.

On May 4 the RTM approved the Board of Finance’s recommended budget for the Board of Education. The $135,304,763 approved by the RTM, while $1,347,716 less than the Board of Ed’s original request, is still a 3% increase over the current year.

The Board of Education chose not to ask the RTM to restore funds cut by the Board of Finance. Instead, it managed to make up the amount through increased state aid, and funds received under emergency grant programs like the Coronavirus Relief Fund and the American Rescue Plan.

As in prior years, the overwhelming majority of the Board of Education budget —81% — goes to salaries and benefits.

Prior to voting on the budget, the RTM was briefed by Board of Finance chair Brian Stern on the town’s financial condition. Despite unexpected expenses due to COVID and Hurricane Isaias, the town is projected to finish the fiscal year on June 30 within 1% of the amount budgeted last May. This amount — which can be covered by the town’s reserves — is due to hard work by town employees, and financial aid from state and federal governments.

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