Tag Archives: Westport education budget

Budget Season Begins: Town, Education Proposals Presented

The Board of Finance got its first look at the proposed town and education budgets last night.

The total request for the 2023-24 fiscal year, from 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Board of Education chair Lee Goldstein and superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice. is $233,487,842. That’s up 4.39% from the current year.

Education comprises 63% of the total town budget. The bulk of that $136 million — 64% — goes for salaries. Benefits comprise another 15%.

Other costs include purchased services (11.3%), property services (5.9%), supplies (2.1%), equipment (0.6%) and other (0.5%).

Click here for the proposed Board of Education budget.

In the $81,932,340 town budget, the largest costs are public safety (30%) and pension, other post-employment benefits and insurance (25%).

The rest of the funds go to Public Works (16%), Parks & Recreation (10%), general government (9%), debt service (6%) and other uses, like the Westport Library, Westport Transit District, Earthplace and Aspetuck Health District (2%).

Where our money goes …

Westport’s total debt is now $100 million. It is projected to rise to $350 million by 2031, then begin to decline.

Tooker’s budget packet includes a mill rate comparison with area towns. Westport’s mill rate of 18.07 is higher than Greenwich (11.28) and Darien (17.23), but below New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Fairfield, Wilton and Ridgefield. Weston had the highest area mill rate: 32.97.

Click here to see the total recommended town budget.

Next steps include public hearings, Board of Finance votes, and final approval by the Representative Town Meeting. (Hat tip: Nancy Kail)

… and the town operations (non-education) portion of it.

(How’s this for a personal budget idea: Please set aside something to support “06880.” Click here — and thank you!)

Talking About Taxes

Two days ago, Staples students Allison Manning and Susan Greenberg asked principal John Dodig if he would talk about the effects of budget cuts.

Today, he did.

The prinicipal — and his boss, schools superintendent Elliott Landon — gave presentations in the Staples library to 3 lunchtime groups.  All were standing room only.

The educators provided their perspectives on the budget process.  They corrected misinformation — explaining, for example, that much-publicized cuts to courses like “Collaborative” (English/social studies) and robotics were made earlier this year, based on demands for a 2% budget increase.

Dr. Elliott Landon, Westport schools superintendent, talks with Staples students Farrel Levenson and Suzanne Kleine about budget cuts.

Dr. Elliott Landon, Westport schools superintendent, talks with Staples students Farrel Levenson and Suzanne Kleine about budget cuts.

Landon described first selectman Gordon Joseloff’s decision to offer early retirement to all town employees.  That vote, he said, belied the claim that Westport’s pension fund is underfunded — a key factor driving demands to decrease the education budget even further.

Now, with the RTM considering further cuts — perhaps $1 million, beyond the $1.4 million already eliminated — Landon revealed what might be on the chopping block.

Athletes may have to pay to play sports — including equipment and transportation.  Students involved in extracurricular activities like Inklings could pick up the newspaper’s advisor stipend themselves.

At the elementary school level, band and Spanish may go.  “We live in a global economy,” Landon said.  “My personal belief is that the ability hear, comprehend, read, write and speak Spanish is vital to our national interest.”

Students asked pointed questions, on topics ranging from administrative salaries to why classrooms were 80 degrees.  “I know,” Landon said. “Specialists are looking at the heating system.  It doesn’t work the way it was designed to.”

Some Westporters, Landon said, “don’t see the correlation between the fiscal well-being of the community, the need to maintain property values, and the quality of our education.

Staples principal John Dodig (left) and Westport schools superintendent Elliott Landon address students.

Staples principal John Dodig (left) and Westport schools superintendent Elliott Landon address students.

“We have  excellent fire and police departments,” the superintendent said.  “But people don’t move to Westport for the fire and police departments.  They come here for our schools.

“Business Week and Connecticut Magazine understand the quality of our schools,” he continued.  “If you’re a very bright student, there are wonderful programs for you.  If you’re a struggling learner, there are extraordinary resources.  We help every student reach their potential, whatever their level.  Our performing arts are tremendous.

“We do it all — and we do it with the 4th lowest tax rate in the state of Connecticut.

“We are on the cusp of making significant changes,” Landon concluded.  “Cuts of the magnitude being talked about will alter this school system for years to come.”

Dodig asked questions of the students, making sure they understood the complexities of the budget process.

And, referring to next Tuesday’s crucial vote, the principal said:  “It’s important that RTM members hear from the public.  Talk about this with your parents.  Whatever their feelings — whether they think the budget proposals are good or bad — make sure they let their feelings be known to the RTM.”