WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport will spend nearly $104.2 million on education next year, after the town’s legislative body approved the Board of Education’s requested spending package Tuesday night, without making cuts.
Parents and educators present in the Town Hall auditorium during the meeting gave a round of applause after the Representative Town Meeting voted 28-3 to approve the $104,181,513 budget. This budget, which represents a 3.95 percent increase in spending over the current year, will go into effect on July 1.
“I think we need to invest in our children and I think it will come back to really help us,” RTM District 4 member Clarissa Moore said during the meeting.
A major contributor to the budget increase is contractual salary and benefit increases, Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney said. Specifically, she said 3.61 percent of the 3.95 percent increase is due to contractual salary and benefit obligations, which makes up about 82 percent of the schools budget.
Rising costs of tuition for out-of-district placements of students with special needs also contributes to the increased budget, Whitney said. There are times when a special education student must be placed in a school outside the district in order for his or her specific needs to be met, she said.
The change in second-grade class size guidelines from 25 to 22 students, and the implementation of the S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at the middle schools are also contributing factors, Whitney said.
The approved budget will also allow the district to upgrade its technology. Specifically, it will allow wireless Internet to be installed at Kings Highway and Coleytown Elementary schools— the only two in the district currently without wi-fi—and the expansion of broadband at Staples High School.
The $104.2 million is designated as the schools operating budget. However, the total Board of Education budget, including board debt and aid to private schools, is $117,382,406.
Combined with the approved $75.6 million town budget—which the RTM approved Monday night —Westport’s total overall spending plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year is $193 million, a 2.44 percent increase over the current year.
Now that the budgets have been approved, the Board of Finance will soon set next year’s tax rate.
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