The Westport Board of Finance tonight voted for a $2,050,000 cut in the Board of Education budget and approved a total school and municipal budget of $207,703,868, representing a 1.3 percent increase over the current year.
The Board of Education will have an opportunity to return next week to seek any restoration in the cut, which was approved 6-1 (Lee Caney opposed). It then moves next month to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), the town’s 36-member legislative body.
The board had presented a proposed budget of $118,223,800, or a 3.36 percent increase.
The Board of Finance action followed word from Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer that cost savings of $1.3 million to $1.5 million would be achieved by the school bargaining units joining the state health plan.
She said she has set a deadline for Friday for the unions to respond to the proposal with approximately half indicating already they would be in favor of joining the plan.
The additional $750,000 in reductions would have to come from general expenditures and Palmer said her board will discuss what action it would take at its meeting on Monday.
During the discussion tonight, Board of Finance member John Hartwell said his aim was not to have any increase in the current mill rate. He noted that the Board of Education had voted to add school resource officers next year at a cost of $320,000.
Whether the cost came from the police budget or school budget was irrelevant, he said, but had to be kept in mind as the finance board sets the mill rate next month.
Parent Jill Dillon said there has to be a community conversation about reducing the school budget by hiring less experienced and therefore less expensive teachers. Westport must remain an attractive, competitive school district for prospective parents, she said.