Something was missing this week, when the RTM considered Westport’s 2 budgets.
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.
Budget 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.
No 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.