Tag Archives: Westport CT budget

Roundup: BMS, Budget Process, BOF …

Matthew Balga — the 54-year-old Norwalk resident killed in a motor vehicle/pedestrian accident Saturday night on Riverside Avenue — worked at The Whelk, not far from where he was struck.

A small memorial honored his life yesterday, near the scene of his death.

(Photo/Jennifer Johnson)


This morning’s “06880” lead story described Bedford Middle School’s 7th grade project: sending letters and artwork to their counterparts in Westport’s sister city of Lyman, Ukraine.

But that’s not the only way BMS engages with the world outside Westport.

Yesterday, 6th graders capped off a 2-month “Walk for Water” fundraiser. It coincided with their social studies Africa unit, featuring the book “A Long Walk to Water” to Linda Sue Park.

Students learned that many people around the globe lack reliable access to clean, fresh water. They walk an average of 3.7 miles — sometimes several times a day — to access potable water.

Over the course of 2 months, each BMS 6th grader and member completed a 3.7- mile walk, to understand the struggles that come with fresh water insecurity, and raise awareness and funds for the cause.

Bedford’s 6th grade students and associated community raised over $10,000 to support the “Iron Giraffe Challenge 2023.” The non-profit organization provides safe, fresh water and hygiene to villages in South Sudan.

The cost to build a new well is $15,000. As thanks, a plaque will be placed next to a new well in the village when it is built.

Yesterday, BMS 6th graders participated in a virtual meeting with Elissa Rowley from the Water for South Sudan organization. She described their work, and answered questions.

Then the 6th graders, teachers and staff walked to the Staples High School track, to recreate their Walk for Water.

Contributions are still being accepted. To give, and learn more, click here.

6th graders meet with Elissa Rowley yesterday.


It’s budget season. Buckle up!

Whether you’re an old-timer or newcomer; whether you know Westport’s budget process, or don’t have a clue, this week’s “Westport … What’s Happening” podcast is for you.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker explains the budget season, step by step. She also introduces the proposed 2023-24 budget, explaining how it was developed and where the money goes. (Or hopes to go.)

Click below, for this very informative Y’s Men of Westport and Weston feature:


Speaking of the budget (spoiler alert): The Board of Finance plays a crucial role.

Who are they? How do they operate?

The League of Women Voters pull back the curtain on March 15 (7 p.m., Westport Library). Chair Lee Caney and others will explain everything you need to know, at this free event.


“Free Renty” is a documentary about Tamara Lanier, an African American woman now living in Norwich, Connecticut, who was determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, Renty Taylor — an enslaved man — and his daughter Delia.

The images were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to prove the superiority of the white race. The film tracks Lanier’s lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump and author Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The documentary will be screen on March 18 (6 p.m.), at The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport — followed by a discussion led by Lanier herself.

Admission is free. A potluck dinner is served before the viewing, at 5. For more information, email events@uuwestport.org.

Tamara Lanier


VersoFest 2023’s concert pass is now on sale. It includes 3 shows at the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum:

  • Friday, March 10 fundraiser with supergroup Blue Coupe (members of Alice Cooper and Blue Öyster Cult)
  • Thursday, March 30: Sunflower Bean and DJ Hysterica
  • Friday, March 31: The Smithereens, Amilia K. Spicer, DJ Miriam Linna.

The $90 pass is a 22% discount from the $115 face value. Only 150 are available; click here to purchase. For more information on VersoFest, click here.


Speaking of entertainment:

Brian Marsella headlines this week’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, March 9, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. shows; dinner at 7 p.m.; VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399).

Called “a psychedelic Art Tatum,” Marsella recently finished a world tour. He’s joined by bassist Reid Taylor and drummer Brian Floody — returning after a fall appearance at The Post — and series curator/saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Brian Marsella


New to Westport: Vanessa Lewis’ latest iteration of her Penfield Collective retail concept, in Sconset Square. She brings the physical store from Fairfield, and a customer base from far and wide.

Penfield Collective is a “highly edited collection of must-have apparel and accessories.” That fits in well, with many of its design and lifestyle neighbors in the recently renovated shopping center on Myrtle Avenue.

Click here to learn more.

Vanessa Lewis


Large houses now line the banks of Sherwood Mill Pond. But there is still room for nature, as shown in this “Westport … Naturally” photo by Rick Benson:

(Photo/Rick Benson)


And finally … Gary Rossington, a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd — and their last surviving original member — died Sunday at 71.

The guitarist survived both a bad car accident in 1976 (which inspired the song “That Smell”), and the 1977 plane crash that killed 3 band members. Rossington suffered 2 broken arms, a broken leg, and a punctured stomach and liver.

He had quintuple bypass surgery in 2003, suffered a heart attack in 2015, and underwent several heart surgeries later. Click here for a full obituary. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

(From Westport’s budget process to VersoFest — and on to Lynyrd Skynrd — the “06880” daily Roundup is your place for news and information. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

A $3 Million Elephant

Jim Goodrich is a retired businessman and a 35-year resident of Westport.  His 3 children are graduates of the Westport school system.  Here are his thoughts on this year’s town budget — and his solution.

In trying to resolve a single budget issue, the Board of Finance has created a host of problems far more significant than the one they have set out to fix.  There may be other ways to remedy the situation.

Attending the review of the Board of Education budget by the Board of Finance was disheartening.  I was disappointed because significant reductions to a well received and well thought-out budget were made, and the reduction did not square with my personal values.  The disheartening part came from statements made by certain BOF members that indicated to me that some of them understand little about how the school system operates.  They may not even believe in public education.

I understand how town officials can also feel frustration.  Cutting police and fire headcount, for example, is pretty draconian stuff.  When you have the first selectman talking about being forced to cut vital services, and the schools talking about cutting educational programs, you feel the divisive battle lines being drawn.

Is this the way it must be?  I certainly hope not.  But I think we have been brought to this juncture as a result of less than effective leadership by the Board of Finance.

The $3 million elephant in Westport's budget room.

The BOF apparently believes that its only job is to keep taxes flat or low, and they have found a way to do so by “spreading the pain” – but at a cost to the fabric of the community they serve and that we all live in.   The BOF may feel that its job is done and now they can pass the problem down the road to the RTM that will have to resolve a serious set of issues.

Somehow we’ve come to this point without a good look at the elephant in the room:  a town pension liability of $3 million that needs to be funded.  The BOF may think it has handled the issue by cutting expenses by about $3 million.  But from another viewpoint they have created a host of other significant problems, while superficially solving the one they most feel responsibility for.

The pension issue is real, and because it is a town liability, it is also a taxpayer liability.  We taxpayers own the liability and have to pay it.  The essence of the BOF’s decision is that we taxpayers must pay for our liability by cuts in essential services.  Those cuts means a dirtier town that is less secure, with an educational system that is less than high quality.

In other words, the only “win” for the taxpayer is to continue to pay low taxes as compared to neighboring towns.  In every other respect we taxpayers “lose.”  I’m not pleased to think that a stretched police or fire department might not be available for my emergency, or that our schools may not do for today’s students what they did for mine.

I believe that if you have a complaint or a problem, you have a responsibility to try and resolve it.  I do not believe that cuts to key services is the way to solve the liability we taxpayers own.  I do believe there are things that can be done.  I offer a couple of possibilities that are more of a rifle shot aimed at the proverbial elephant in the room, as opposed to destroying the house with the elephant in it.

The most simple-minded suggestion is to raise taxes to pay for the liability of $3 million.

A variant of the first is to create a tax surcharge targeted at the liability, and payable over a defined period of time.  Taxpayers who are unable to pay the surcharge could be eligible for relief through a program similar to that offered to seniors (a deferral of tax until the taxpayer’s home is sold, or the tax lien is otherwise paid off).

Create a tax-exempt, interest-bearing bond for the $3 million liability that could be purchased by taxpayers (or, perhaps anyone) and paid back to investors over time. My parents bought me war bonds when I was a child, and savings bonds later.  Why not Westport Bonds and Minute Man Bonds?

“Our” liability has a defined size and scope, and we can end it.  If the clever people involved with the Westport Country Playhouse could raise $30MM to fix a facilities problem, perhaps some of them would lend their considerable “bling” to help fix a one-time budget problem.

How?  Hold a “Retire the Debt” fund raiser.  Buy a kid a piece of a fire truck, police car or classroom.  Sponsor a teacher, a firefighter, a cop, a police dog.  If you like golf, sponsor a fairway or one of the greens.  You want waterfront property?  No problem, you can have your own section of Compo beach. Then let’s recognize and celebrate those who have taken part.

Hey, this is Westport.  We’re smart, generous and creative.  Given the choice between a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (read “cuts in essential services”) or a pat on the back (read “my own section of Compo Beach”), I know what I’d choose.

So come on, Board of Finance:  Hunker down and think of something more uplifting than “shared pain.”

You’re Westporters.   You can do better.