Landon unveils school budget with 2.5% hike
Updated 5:44 pm, Thursday, January 5, 2012
Maintaining a tradition of strong financial support for Westport's public schools, Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon on Tuesday proposed an operating budget of approximately $100.5 million for 2012-13, an increase of about 2.5 percent over current spending.
The proposed spending package, as outlined by Landon to the Board of Education, would see a $2.4 million increase over the current-year education operating budget of approximately
$98 million. For the 2011-12 budget, Landon had proposed a 2.7 percent hike in education expenditures over the previous year.
"The budget was formulated with the understanding that the town continues to be pressed financially and that the Board of Education, working with the Board of Finance and the RTM, is interested in preserving all of our programs to the extent possible," Landon said.
"But, at the same time, we're trying to bring in this budget in a fiscally prudent manner."
The school board will review and make revisions to Landon's budget during a series of meetings this month. It will likely vote in early February on a modified version of Landon's budget.
After the school board votes, the budget will then be reviewed and voted on by the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting. Those bodies last year approved a $250,000 spending reduction to the spending plans by the Board of Education.
With many finance board and RTM members expressing concern about controlling town spending, especially for municipal employees' pensions and health-care benefits, the education budget could face more substantial cuts this year.
The new fiscal year starts July 1.
Personnel costs, nonetheless, will continue to command the majority of local education outlays. Educators and administrators' salaries and benefits comprise a total of 82 percent of Landon's proposed budget, which mirrors the current-year education budget's allocation for those expenditures.
The proposed budget also reflects recent savings for the school district for expenditures, such as electricity and employee health-care costs, Landon said.
Current class sizes would be maintained, while the district's gifted student and special education programs would be "enhanced," Landon said.
Current staffing levels in Westport's school district would not be changed dramatically by Landon's proposed spending package. If enacted, his budget would produce a net decrease of six full-time positions and one part-time post in the school district.
Board members' discussion of Landon's budget was mostly limited to questions to Landon and Assistant Superintendent of Business Nancy Harris about allocations within the proposed budget, as well as inquiries about local, state and national funding sources for the spending package.
Public discussion at the meeting was also brief, with no speakers commenting on Landon's budget.
The Board of Education will continue its review of Landon's proposed 2012-13 education budget during an all-day meeting scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the Westport Public Library.