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Superintendent warns faculty of budget reduction after state education cuts


By Fritz Schemel ’17

In an e-mail Tuesday to Staples faculty, Superintendent Colleen Palmer detailed the impacts recent state budget cuts to Westport’s education system will have.

In her letter, Palmer said the district has lost $2.4 million dollars in support from the state this year in their annual budget.

“The district will be working to seek ways to make additional reductions in its budget,” Palmer said in the e-mail. “Both our Board Chair and I warned from the podium last evening at the [Board of Finance] meeting that we are gravely concerned about eroding the quality of our system with such a large target number to cut.”

Assistant Principal Pat Micinilio said that he is not sure what the cuts will be and has little say in the process, which is left up to the Board of Finance and Board of Education.

“There’s always times when we have to get a little creative,” he said. “The cuts are monumentally greater than they’ve been in the past. Nobody wants to eliminate, obviously, teachers or programs or anything like that.”

The budget cuts come after the state announced $50 million in education cuts to municipalities in late 2016. The cuts hit wealthier towns, such as Greenwich and Westport, hardest.

At the time, Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget chief, Ben Barnes, told the Hartford Courant, “certainly there is nothing about this that will force any of these communities into layoffs or cuts that would significantly affect students.”

However, in her e-mail, Palmer expressed that while they will try to be avoided, staff reductions could be in play.

“In the event that staff reductions are part of the mitigation strategy to reduce approximately $1.7M from our budget, any individual who could be impacted would be contacted in advance of any public statement regarding their position,” she wrote.

Social studies teacher Daniel Heaphy said that he has never seen this drastic of a cut in his time at Staples, but said that Palmer’s letter was helpful.

“Dr. Palmer’s e-mail was a lot more detailed and specific than we’ve ever gotten before,” he said. “Legitimately hearing her speak, she does care about us being informed.”

The Board of Education will meet next Monday, March 13, to discuss potential budget solutions to the cut, and the Board of Finance will vote on a total budget on March 16.

While Westport will have to find solutions, Palmer placed blame on Hartford for its financial woes.

“This entire disruption to our budget process is solely the fault of Hartford,” she said. “Our district, our team, presented a lean budget with several areas of innovation and increased quality without increasing payroll costs.  I am deeply saddened that my home state has been so reckless with its fiduciary responsibilities.”

Photo used under the Creative Commons License 

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