RTM Talks Over Library Cuts, Retirement Plans, and Custodial Services

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A Westport Representative Town Meeting (RTM) was held May 4 to approve the 2009-2010 Board of Finance (BOF) proposed town budget, decreasing .53 percent from the previous year. RTM members emphasized discussion of cuts concerning the Westport Public Library, custodial services at the senior center, and retirement plans.

“You are facing one of the most agonizing and difficult decisions,” BOF Chairman Jeffrey Mayer said to RTM members. “It’s hard to make sacrifices.”

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said there has not been a budget reduction in nearly a generation.

“These are very different times,” Joseloff said. “There are lots of uncertainties.”

Mayer said the members of Board of Education (BOE) tried their best given the difficult times.

“In the 14 years that I have reviewed Board of Education budgets, I have never seen a BOE work this hard on limiting budget cuts,” said Mayer.

RTM members also discussed the issue of cutting the Westport Public Library’s funds. According to Public Works Director Steven Edwards, 20 percent of the Library’s budget comes from fundraising, but donations and volunteers have decreased. Edwards also mentioned that during the Great Depression, California kept its libraries open.

“We can do well by following that example,” said Edwards.

Others said that despite the intellectual and community significance of the Library, other restorations might be more important.

“In these trying times, the area which I think is impacted most is the human services department,” said District 7 RTM member Allen S. Bomes, during the conversation over the Library cuts. “We have got to get our priorities straight.”

After discussion, RTM members finally voted against the restoration of the Library cuts.

The custodial services at Town Hall and the senior center would be reduced from full to part time. RTM members argued over these cuts as well.

“The senior center is a second home for many in this town,” said William F. Meyer, a District 3 RTM member.

During the meeting, members also discussed the reduction in pension funds, in addition to the upcoming May 20 decision on next year’s mill rate and the resulting tax amounts. Mayer said it is still too early to know the exact numbers.

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