By Max Appell ’18 and Julia Rosier ’18

The State of Connecticut passed a law over a year ago deeming that starting on July 1, 2017, the state will have a 2.5 percent cap on a community’s increased spending, including the education budget.

This law will directly impact Staples High School because Staples’ budget is 1.8 million dollars over the new state law’s cap.

“We are creative problem solvers, and we continue to work to reduce our budget in ways that do not negatively impact the educational program,” Superintendent Colleen Palmer said.

The law states that a municipality, town government, is able to exceed the 2.5 percent budget limitation in school spendings, however it will consequently face a financial penalty from the state. The law includes that for every dollar spent over the budget, the town’s grant from the state would be reduced by $0.50.

“In the case of Westport, it is estimated that it could be at risk of losing approximately $250,000 if it exceeded the 2.5 percent cap,” Palmer said.

The State of Connecticut believed that the local property taxes were increasing rapidly for homeowners and businesses and believed that this cap would limit the increase in taxes if a community limited its spending increases.

“I understand that the state wants to limit the amount of local property taxes people pay,” Staples Principal James D’Amico said, “but it seems like they are passing the responsibility of the state on to the towns, instead of addressing structural issues at the state level.”

There have been no confirmed plans on how Staples will lower their spendings but D’Amico said, “positions that most directly work with students is not something that I have heard discussed.  It is the people that really make a school function at a high level.”

According to Palmer, the Westport Public Schools district is searching for methods to be conscious of the budgets. “I have emailed all 1,000 staff members to seek their suggestions how we can be more efficient and effective with our resources,” Palmer said.

Staff members trust that Palmer will be able to deal with the new budget and allow the school to still function at a high level.

“I’m sure that Dr. Palmer and the other administrators will be thinking creatively and working hard to uncover areas where money can be saved or reallocated in order to preserve the staff and programs for the district,” English Department head, Julie Heller said.

The Westport Public Schools district are working on the development of a new budget plan that according to Palmer, will not conclude until next May.

“Our district will strive to find cost efficiencies and other ways of reducing the budget that will not negatively impact our educational program” Palmer said. “It will be a difficult year ahead as we work with the dynamics of educational funding in these times.

Photo used under the Creative Commons license 

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