Board of Finance approves school, town budget for 2023-24 school year


An overview of the new 2023-2024 town and school budget, recently passed by the Board of Finance. Graphic by Finnegan Courtney ’23.

The Board of Finance (BOF) unanimously approved the proposed 2023-2024 school year budget for the district and followed by the entire 2023-2024 town budget on March 17, completing the final step of the bureaucratic budget process before it goes to the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) in July later this year.

The budget, 5.2% higher than the 2022-2023 budget, is just part of the entire town spending package, which for this year, comes to nearly $234 million. Of that, 63% will go to the schools’ budget and the other $82 million will go towards other town operations, including earmarked parts of the budget for the Westport Library and Earthplace. 

“First being inflation,” First Selectwoman Jen Tooker said, of the reasons behind the increased budget, at an earlier BOF meeting. “Inflationary costs on supplies and materials, […] the other piece is the labor market.”

Principal Stafford W. Thomas Jr. says that may not be as much of a monetary boost as it seems, again due to inflation.

“It’s certainly necessary. And it’s interesting, because technically it is an increase,” Thomas said. “But each year, [we as a school see a] cost of living increase. So the cost of living […] used to be around 3%. But with inflation, it’s greater than that. […] So every year, it costs a little bit more, and that’s that cost of living increase.”

Thomas illustrated his point by providing the following scenario: if a school had a bare-bones $3 million budget and kept the same flat budget of $3 million dollars for the next year, then that school would not be able to retain its entire staff, resources and system in place. 

“Salaries, health insurance, […] those costs fluctuate from year to year, […], but they typically always go up, so you have your benefits,” Thomas said. “So, in this case, the increase allows us to keep what we have.”

The BOF discussion was brief over the budget and led to a quick, 7-0 vote in favor of sending the budget to the RTM in a few months, a positive characterisation that has been common with this year’s budget. Back at the BOE meeting, Board of Education Chairwoman Lee Goldstein praised the board members for their fruitful discussion.

Salaries, health insurance, […] those costs fluctuate from year to year, […], but they typically always go up, so you have your benefits. So, in this case, the increase allows us to keep what we have.

— Principal Stafford W. Thomas Jr.

“I think that your questions over time, and at the beginning of the cycle, really helped us prepare something that was good for us, to grapple with some of the questions, and good for you to understand our challenges,” Goldstein said. “I think it led to a better product. So I thank you for that, for pushing us that way.”

On the topic of the school budget, Staples’ Science department chair John DeLuca has been working, with his co-department chairs, on this updated budget for months.

“Department Chairs like myself develop a working budget for subsequent years based on a number of factors, including changes to the curriculum and course offerings, trends in enrollment, and an analysis of the materials and equipment that we currently have in place,” DeLuca said. “It also requires a great deal of communication with teachers and paraprofessionals who work with these materials on a daily basis.”

DeLuca went on to state that while he believes the budget will maintain the status quo established, he also thinks the Science department will continue to evolve and advance.

“This past year, we were able to update and improve some specific aspects of our program, such as microscopes in our middle schools and a wonderful virtual planetarium for our high school astronomy classes,” DeLuca said. “However, we also continue to fully equip our other science classes with everything that they need to deliver the excellent instruction that we provide.”