Thursday, January 29, 2015
By James Lomuscio
Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon tonight appeared to pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, proposing a $1.5 million reduction in his announced 2015-16 budget of $113,294,493. It lowered the 3.75 percent increase over this year’s operating budget to 2.34 percent.
Elliott Landon: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Landon told the Board of Education the cut could be gleaned from myriad areas. They included: $150,000 in workers compensation savings; removing capital projects from the operating budget, just at the town does, to save $390,000; high paid employee retirements and lower pay replacements; fund transfer, and substantial insurance savings.
In making the amendment to his proposed budget, Landon noted that Brian Stern, finance board vice chairman, told him that a “2.5 to 2.9 percent increase was as acceptable range for the Board of Finance,” the body the budget goes to following school board approval.
Michael Gordon, school board chairman, seemed thrilled. He thanked Landon, Elio Long, school business administrator, and Marge Cion, the school system’s director of human resources, “for sharpening your pencils.” He said the proposed cuts would put the budget where the finance board members “have said we should be,” without compromising programs for students.
Not all board members, however, were sold. Brett Aronow, for one, questioned the insurance savings of $677,000, and Mark Mathias was firm about keeping capital expenses as part of the operating budget.
Landon defended the latter, saying that it works well for the municipal budget, “a legitimate way for doing business.”
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.
Mathias was not convinced, arguing that capital expenses in the operating budget cannot be trimmed by the finance board since the board cannot trim school line items, only the overall operating budget. Once capital expenses are removed, he said, the funds would be vulnerable to a line item cut.
“The only way I know we can get them is if we put them into our operating budget where they (finance board) cannot touch them,” he said.
“For me it’s a matter of certainty,” he added.
School board member Jeannie Smith, however, defended Landon’s proposal, calling it “a creative way to manage our funds.”
“I’m very confident with taking this risk,” she said. “...They (Board of Finance) almost gave us a directive to get this done.”
The school board plans to revisit the budget Monday night, as it prepares to finalize it for the Board of Finance.
Posted 01/29/15 at 10:53 PM Permalink
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How about savings in the ‘power’ account. First-costs to heat the schools has to be going down. Also-if I remember correctly-didn’t Landon take money from this line item to pay form some other issue. And that issue is solved. I believe it was over a $1 million.
We all want great schools but that should not equate to an increase every year-especially when we know there has been money moved around for previous unfunded issues.