Ursus

Budget Effort to Begin

Henry Carson, Staff Writer

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As you’re probably sitting here in the caf, I will keep this short. After all, you are one of the hundreds that have just been pursued by the “Ursus” staff, trying frantically to hand out their copies of the third issue of the paper. You probably are eating a muffin, chatting with friends, or finishing your homework.
But I am going to ask you to look around. Look at the building, the books in your bag, the teacher walking down the hall with handouts she made for her students. All this-the paper, the staff, the lights being on, the homework you should have done in your backpack–is connected to the budget. If there are changes to the budget, this school changes. And you deserve to know about it.

The budget is complicated; it doesn’t just appear. The superintendent and her building principals and staff come up with and revise a plan, with all of the building maintenance, school materials, salaries, and benefits in it. As of now, they have already completed the plan for the 2018-2019 school year. This plan becomes the BOE’s budget for the year, and it must be approved by a group of elected officials who oversee finances and the RTM, a group of elected officials who give final approval. Each year the budget gets made and approved, but lately federal and state aid to Westport has decreased, and getting money to the schools has become a point of conflict and discussion.”

“We have the funds this year we require to operate all of our programs and to fund our necessary supplies, textbooks, and educational materials,” said Dr. Colleen Palmer, Superintendent of the Westport Public School District, “However, every new budget year brings additional challenges.”

Many areas affect the budget, and its increase each year. Changes in our country’s health care costs are a big issue, seeing as the 81.5 percent of the overall education budget is focused on the teachers’ salary and providing health care. In fact, according to a presentation to the Board of Education, an estimated 62 percent, or $2,957,857 of the Budget increase, ($4,792,856) will go into health care.

Typically, the school budget increases 2 to 3 percent each year. This year, the estimated Board of Education (BOE) budget will increase by 4.19 percent.

Although we don’t seem to be heading towards cuts, some cost reduction may mean the elimination of two buses from Coleytown elementary and middle school routes, reallocation of existing staff, and deferring maintenance, including carpet replacement, and interior painting, to name a few.

“Important to note, the Board of Finance cannot target specific groups or programs to decrease/cut,” said Dr. Adam Rosen, principal of Bedford. “They can only recommend a certain financial amount to come off the total budget request.”

If there are reductions, the board would try to reduce areas of the budget that have the least impact to classrooms as possible. Things like furniture, supplies, etc. tend to be in the first wave of reductions. If the required cuts are deep enough, it could require a reduction in personnel in our district, but they would try their best to make those reductions in areas that would least impact our educational programs.

“Therefore, each year we must present our budget and explain the need for the requested funds,” said Dr. Palmer, “I imagine that with the new federal income tax legislation that has passed, many citizens of Westport will experience an additional tax burden to the federal government, impacting the ability/willingness of our residents to also shoulder increased local property taxes to pay for our town expenses, including education.”

This budget is highly important to Bedford, and the easier it is to pay for it, the better. Not only does the budget pay for the salary and health care of the staff, but it also ensures all appropriate maintenance for a safe learning environment is sustained, and maintains all current class size guidelines of the BOE, and supports all current educational programs of the district. It starts off as a plan, a guideline. But this budget is the means on what our civilized, Westport schools run.

“I have high hopes and feel confident in our Superintendent, Board of Education, and Town of Westport leaders on the various board and committees,” said Dr. Rosen, “Westport enjoys a population of well-educated professionals in leadership and finance. While Connecticut is facing a difficult and protracted financial situation, Westport leaders anticipated financial cuts and decreased funding and planned accordingly so the impact of such cuts were, by in large, ameliorated. I think we will continue to find new efficiencies to make certain our schools remain the crown jewels of the Town of Westport.”

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Budget Effort to Begin”

  1. Annabelle on February 15th, 2018 10:03 am

    This is very well written, and informative. Thank you!

  2. Alice on March 6th, 2018 8:30 am

    I like how there are many different quotes said by different people. and it is very well written, with good word choice.

  3. Mateo Olea on March 6th, 2018 10:44 am

    I like how you presented all the information about the topic. Good job!

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Budget Effort to Begin