Board of Education discusses further budget restoration

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Board of Education discusses further budget restoration


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By Becky Hoving ’17

Members of the Board of Education (BoE) met Monday, April 24 to respond to the restoration of $310,000 to the Westport Public Schools budget.

The restoration is a response to the initial $2.4 million dollar cut to the annual budget that Superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer warned the district of in early March.

However, despite this restoration, many members of the Board argued that it is not enough. Candice Savin, for example, was among a number of Board members pushing for an additional $80,000 restoration to the budget. She expressed that while she respected the judgement of the RTM, which has previously noted that none of the cuts should directly affect students on the classroom level, she still has some concerns. “We have to take our fiscal responsibility seriously,” she said. “We have to draw the line somewhere, and it can’t be arbitrary.”

Similarly, Mark Mathias, a veteran Board member, expressed a deep emotional distaste for the cuts. “This is tough,” he said after a long pause. Mathias, who works with the district to implement new educational technology like Makerspaces, argued that such arbitrarily drawn lines will encourage an attitude of digging even deeper to reduce the budget.

Savin and Mathias are not alone in their discomfort with the cuts. On April 5, the BoE listened to community members “comment on the education budget” for over five hours in a standing room only space, according to an email from Palmer. The response to this hearing was the $310,000 restoration noted above, as well as “to support the BoE as a backstop for its health reserve (allowing the BoE to save another $480,000).”

Additionally, Palmer identified an interest in non-Westport residents attending Westport Public Schools as a valuable source of revenue for the school.  She noted that two families have come forward and stated they would personally pay tuition for their children to attend Westport Public Schools.

“These families are so impressed with the quality of education in Westport,” Palmer said. “We would do this only if it didn’t impact our own educational program for students who are in-town.”

Palmer noted that the idea would need a pilot program and that an application process would be involved.

For further update on the budget restoration and decision, the RTM will meet on Tuesday, May 2 at Town Hall to vote on what will be the final decision for the 2017-18 budget. The meeting will include any recommended restorations made at Monday night’s meeting, according to an email from the Westport PTA.

Photo taken by Becky Hoving ’17

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