Financiers back trimmed school budget of $112.6M
WESTPORT — The Board of Finance on Thursday approved an education budget of $112.6 million budget for 2016-17 — reduced nearly $850,000 by school officials from their original request — and then endorsed an overall $204 million spending package for the fiscal year starting July 1.
The $91.4 million in town-side expenditures, with the Board of Education’s budget — reflecting a 0.97 percent increase for the combined spending plans — will be reviewed by the Representative Town Meeting before the figures are final.
Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon praised Elio Longo, director of school business operations, for reducing the school budget to a 1.29 percent increase from its originally approved 2.05 percent increase over the last fiscal year. Board of Finance members had previously indicated they wanted spending requests for the new fiscal year to be held to an increase of no more than a 1.5 percent increase.
"For all these reasons and for his hard work, we are now calling him our super hero, I am sure you agree," Gordon said in reference to Longo.
Finance members expressed satisfaction with the trimmed school spending, with Vice Chairman Michael Rea lauding Landon, who will retire this spring, for his years of service. "You’ve navigated the ship and you’ve taken care of the kids, so I thank you,” he said.
Member Sheri Gordon said she feels that parents are supportive of school officials taking on more maintenance initiatives.
"I think that the parent community is very very pleased that after many years of putting maintenance aside, because of the fact that we were focusing on the quality of our education, that we are finally turning a corner on maintenance of our buildings and really trying to work hard to make sure that we are putting the money in to keep these facilities up to date and keep them to the highest standards," Gordon said.
In January, the finance panel had approved $290,000 to provide Coleytown Elementary School with air conditioning in its gymnasium, auditorium and cafeteria. CES is the only Westport elementary school without air conditioning in those areas.
The cost-effective way in which finance and school worked together was highlighted by board member Clarissa Moore.
"I’m thrilled that we’ve come to a meeting of the minds because it’s always hard for those of us who are parents who are not allowed to give our children absolutely everything,” Moore said, “but we also want to be fiscally conservative, especially the ones who are elected to the Board of Finance.
"So I think the administration, Elliott, Elio, the Board of Education has done an amazing job in coming to a reconciliation in finding some cost savings," she added.
"On behalf of the PTA, we are so grateful to the administration and the Board of Ed and the Board of Finance for allowing us to keep some amazing programs, add some amazing programs — make our schools better than they were last year.
"And it’s meaningful to everyone sitting up here because, whether you have children in the school or you’re just a homeowner in Westport, we can all agree that the schools are a huge of what brings people into Westport," Calger said.
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