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Westport Kicks Off School Budget Talks

Money was the topic of conversation Monday night as the Westport Board of Education and members of the Board of Finance joined forces to discuss the 2011-12 budget process.

Members of the Representative Town Meeting's Education Committee and Finance Committee also sat in on the preliminary discussions. Don O'Day, chairman of the Board of Education, opened with a plea.

"As we kick off the discussions tonight, I'm hoping the message [from the Board of Finance] isn't 'zero' but more: 'Minimize your spending as much as you possibly can, do everything you can do that you've been doing in past, and come to Board of Finance with lean budget that delivers the services the town has really asked us to produce,'" O'Day said.

He added that over the last two years, the Board of Education has looked under "as many rocks as we can to reduce costs." This hard work, he said, paid off as "we have come in well below what the contractual requirements are for our schools."

Although 'zero' wasn't the message, Helen Garten, chairwoman of the Board of Finance, said the town still faces the same level of economic uncertainty as two years ago.

Additionally, Board of Finance member Brian Stern said, "a number of things are worse, at this point, in the budget cycle" than previous years and because of it, he's hoping the Board of Education can keep its budget "as close to flat as humanly possible."

Stern suggested the Board of Education cut as many nonteaching positions as possible. He also suggested the town and the schools look into outsourcing positions, except for police, firefighters and teachers.

Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon will have a school budget proposal ready by January. The Board of Education and Board of Finance will meet again at that time.

What could the Board of Education do to cut or lower its costs for the 2011-12 school year? Make a suggestion below or email me at

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