A week after cutting the Board of Education budget by $2,050,00, the Westport Board of Finance voted tonight to restore $1,128,000 of the cut.
The 4 to 3 vote (Caney, Gordon, and Hartwell opposed) came after talk of the teachers union “ holding the town hostage” by failing to agree with six other educational unions to move to the state health plan. The move could save the town more than $1 million.
John Horrigan, president of the Westport Education Association, the teachers union, rejected the hostage accusation leveled by Jeff Wieser, a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member and chair of its finance committee.
“We are not hostage takers,” Horrigan told the board. He had said that if the town agreed to an additional $140,000 expense in funding the teachers’ health plan, the union would agree to join the state plan.
The $1,128,000 restoration motion was made by finance board member James Westphal. He said it was based on $750,000 the education board said it could cut from its budget request plus $172,000 in savings achieved if six unions join the state plan.
Finance board member John Hartwell proposed a $200,000 restoration, which he said would put pressure on the Board of Education and the teachers union to come to an agreement. It was not voted on because the larger restoration was approved.
Michael Gordon, chair of the Board of Education, and individual board members pledged that if the teachers union joining the state plan eventually achieves $1 million or more in savings, the board would return the additional savings to the town.
The educators had voted on Monday to seek a $1.5 million restoration from the finance board. (See WestportNow April 23, 2018)
Revised figures showed the finance board approving a $117,301,800 education budget, or a 2.56 percent increase, and a town budget of $80,179,853, or a .93 percent increase.
The combined town and school budget of $208,621,035, or a 1.58 percent increase, now goes to the RTM at its annual budget session next month.