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Westport Approves School, Town Budgets

The sound of applause filled the Westport Town Hall auditorium Tuesday night after the Representative Town Meeting unanimously approved a total Board of Education budget of $112.43 million for the 2011-12 school year. It was a move Board of Education Chairman Don O'Day predicted.

"Unlike the last two years, I'm feeling the love a little bit tonight," O'Day humorously said after he presented and explained the budget to the RTM — the town's legislative body.

Following O'Day's presentation, RTM member Jack Klinge not only voiced his support for passing the budget, he urged his colleagues to approve it as presented.

"Academically, this year's senior class set all records for college acceptances into tier one schools," Klinge told the RTM. "We are getting a great return on our investment in the school system."

Of the $112.43 million budget, $98.1 million is set as the operating budget. Originally, the Board of Education sought $98.3 million for its operating budget, but the Board of Finance cut that by $250,000 back in March. The education board never sought restoration.

The total approved education budget is about 1.65 percent more than the current fiscal year. The presentation, discussion of and voting on the education budget only took about 45 minutes. RTM Moderator Hadley Rose joked it was a world record.

While the RTM was quick to approve the education budget, it took about two hours to come to a decision on restoring $70,000 to the Parks and Recreation Department budget.

Several members of the public, like Marianne Goodell, co-president of the Westport PTA, urged the RTM to restore the money. "Many children use these facilities," she said. "It's very important they are maintained and that they're safe."

In a 28-5 vote, the RTM approved the Parks and Recreation restoration. The RTM approved a total town budget of $178.89 million—a 2.1 percent increase over the current year. This budget goes into effect on July 1. The Board of Finance will meet on May 18 to decide on a new tax rate.

Are you surprised the RTM approved the education budget without making cuts? Do you think a 2 percent increase to the total town budget is too large? Please leave your comments below.

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