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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Scrutinizing Transit, Pensions and a Select Job

By James Lomuscio

Highlights of Westport’s Board of Finance informal workshop tonight on the proposed 2014-15 $78.5 million municipal budget included a more than 20 percent planned increase in the town’s pension and OPEB obligations, a 38.1 percent jump in the selectman’s budget to hire an operations manager, and a 3 percent increase in the Westport Transit District’s operating budget.

Though the Transit District’s proposed increase to the town’s contribution to the overall state subsidized bus service of $1.2 million was comparatively small —from $275,845 to $284,120—it received the lion’s share of attention from the finance board. In 2013 and 2012, the board had reduced the transit budget only to have the cuts restored by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

Eugene Cederbaum and Jennifer Johnson, co-directors of the appointed Westport Transit District, fielded myriad questions about bus ridership, the possibility of combining routes, fare increases to offset costs and the riders themselves, from commuters to seniors and the disabled to students going to after school events.

“What our budget represents is really the cost of running the system,” said Johnson.

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