WESTPORT, Conn. – In order to maintain the quality of Westport schools, Superintendent Elliott Landon believes the district needs more than $105.3 million for next year’s operating budget. That’s an increase of 5.15 percent over the current year’s spending — the largest proposed increase in the past four years.
“You’ll note that our percentage increase from 2009 through 2013 essentially averaged less than 2 percent,” Landon told the Board of Education at Monday night’s meeting. “But all of this has come at a price.”
The proposed budget of $105,383,843 would allow the district to not only continue providing high-level instruction and programs, it would also allow the district to address some of its needs, such as enhancing technology, Landon said.
Specifically, the district needs to outfit Coleytown Elementary and Kings Highway schools with wireless Internet access, he said. They are the only two elementary schools without wireless access. The broadband at Staples High School also needs to be expanded, Landon said. Doing so, he said, would allow the district to implement a B.Y.O.D. (bring your own devices) program. If more students brought their own devices, such as laptops, the district could save money on equipment.
“This budget is not only educationally sound, but it’s also fiscally conservative because it continues to support what we’ve been doing, and it enables us to make some enhancements to our instructional programs,” Landon said.
“It continues to support the work that our teachers and administrator have undertaken and wish to continue, and also continues our commitment to giving us the technological backbone necessary as we move into future.”
Over the years, Landon said, the district has made a number of sacrifices to keep budget increases at a minimum while still maintaining the quality of the schools.
Some examples include eliminating a number of administrative and quasi-administrative positions, reducing teaching and support staff, cutting secretaries, paraprofessionals and similar positions, and foregoing building maintenance. But now, the district can no longer make cuts without hurting the quality of education.
“I talked about the low-hanging fruit being less and less last year. Well this year, there ain’t no more left, as they say,” Landon said. “There comes a point where you can’t get blood from a stone.”
The board will dissect Landon’s proposed budget Friday during a special all-day budget workshop at the Westport Library.