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$100 Million Budget Proposed for Westport Schools

The Superintendent’s 2012-2013 recommended budget was discussed Monday night at a Board of Education meeting.

Given the , Superintendent of Schools Dr. Elliott Landon has addressed the financial constraints mainly by reconstructing and eliminating staff and pushing off non-essential maintenance and repairs.

Administrative positions were abolished, certified teaching and support staff were reduced, and non-certified jobs in all categories, from secretaries to paraprofessionals, were eliminated, Landon explained in his budget proposal to the board.

“These limited budgetary allocations have required us to neglect to fully address all of our needed building and grounds projects and our commitment to restorative and preventative maintenance,” Landon stated in the 2012-2013 recommendation, which is $100,543,382 in total, a 2.5 percent (roughly $2.4 million) increase over the 2011-2012 budget.

Landon’s proposal is relatively ‘flat’ compared to the 2.1 percent budget increase for the 2011-2012 school year, which is what the Board of Finance requested.

Board of Education Chair Don O’Day said Monday night he would not look to building maintenance to reduce the recommended budget because maintenance is "” Assistant Superintendent for Business Nancy Harris, who believes the health and safety throughout the entire school district is a high priority, said they have been prudent and cautious with maintenance in past years.

“We need to look at the condition of our facilities and start putting back normal maintenance operations that we simply sliced and diced out of the budget in recent years,” Harris said at the Board of Education meeting.

Landon agreed that health and safety is important, but there are ways to cut costs. Sealing pavement cracks rather than ripping up and repaving entire parking lots is one way Westport has been saving money. Landon was forced to sacrifice building, grounds and preventative/restorative projects, leaving only projects that pose possible health and safety risks.

“We value our buildings, but the instructional program takes the highest priority,” Landon said. “We have to pick and choose.”

The superintendent’s proposal essentially maintains Westport’s educational programs at their current levels. 

Jim Westphal January 10, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Last week, the PTA sent an email summary of the BOE budget meeting stating that employee contractual obligations for the fiscal 2012/2013 year were 3.45%. Last month, I read that the BOE was touting its contract negotiating skills in a joint BOE / BOF meeting. The last teachers' contract was negotiated in late 2009 (and signed in early 2010), a period in which the unemployment rate was at or near a generational peak and during which real wages across the country were declining. I don't have a strong view on how much teachers should be paid and I certainly don't lose a lot of sleep over whether Westport teachers (who are as good at their jobs as any group I know) are overpaid. But one of these days, the BOE is going to have to take a financial perspective extending longer than the several months it takes to develop and approve a budget . If a contract negotiation conducted in the midst of an economic crisis results in a 3.45% increase in contractual obligations with no clear associated productivity gains is considered successful, then the BOE is going to have to be a lot more thoughtful in future fiscal planning than reusing paper clips, deferring maintenance, trimming middle school French and PE, and cutting administrative headcount.

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