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Westport finance board proposes $129M school budget after cuts – CT Insider

WESTPORT — The Board of Finance approved a $129.5 million school budget for the 2022-23 school year after cutting the requested amount by nearly $800,000.

The Board of Education’s requested $130.3 million budget would have been about 3.75 percent higher than the current $125.6 million budget. However, the finance board cited ongoing talks in the school district’s health plan and potentials savings as the reason to instead approve a 3.1 percent budget increase.

Board members noted that if ongoing talks are not successful in the next couple of weeks, full funding would be restored to the budget. Finance Chairwoman Sheri Gordon said the budget process can often be “fraught” with the back-and-forth, push-and-pull nature, however, this year’s budget process has been steadily moving forward.


“This has been the most smooth and direct budget process I’ve ever had, and we really appreciate how everyone was so forthright about the challenges, and about the successes, and the areas where we need to focus for the children,” Gordon said.

Earlier this week, the finance board reviewed the $78 million town portion of the total proposed $223.8 million budget for the next fiscal year.

The finance board approved almost all of the items, but made cuts to the Westport Transit District Wheels2U funding and cut the town retiree health care costs funding in half.

During Thursday night’s school budget review, the board approved just about all of the district’s request including, the funding for the proposed middle school playgrounds as well as the Coleytown modular classrooms, despite its recent denial from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The schools requested more than $148,000 to install two modular classrooms at Coleytown Elementary School to deal with the increased enrollment in the district. However, the ZBA denied the request citing that they felt there was a lack of information about security.

Another meeting will be planned in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal again.

Superintendent Thomas Scarice said the finance board’s funding approval is contingent upon all other approvals.

As for middle school playgrounds, Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said students need movement throughout the day, “when they do have it, learning increases.”

“I think when we don’t provide these opportunities during the course of the day students take their own breaks, you know, fidgeting under a desk or whatever it is, and they’re not paying attention,” Buono said. “Our plan is, and has been, to provide planned opportunities for these breaks and for movements and exercise throughout the day so that when we are focused on the academics students are really at their optimal.”

The finance board also approved $439,000 to install FitCore Extreme playgrounds at Coleytown and Bedford middle schools.

Final approval from the Representative Town Meeting on the total budget will be needed before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

serenity.bishop@hearstmediact.com

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