TO RTM: PLEASE RESTORE $700,000 TO WESTPORT EDUCATION BUDGET

 

Petition to Westport Board of Education & Board of Finance & NOW TO BE HANDED TO RTM FULL MEETING - MAY 2nd 2017 

  • The Residents of Westport, CT and employees at Westport Public Schools call for RTM to approve $700,000 being restored to the Westport Education Budget for FY18. The Board of Finance - rejected our earlier request and voted on a smaller amount. The prior BOF vote against our schools means real cuts for our schools. 
  • We believe the original BOF requested $1.7 MILLION cut to the proposed BOE budget is too harsh and too deep. Excluding the agreed Health Reserve reduction - we are only asking for approx. 40% of the money to be restored - versus the $1.7m requested cut to the original budget from the Board of Finance.
  • We believe this $1.7 MILLION budget cut is too premature when the plan to resolve CT's budget deficit remains unknown.
  • We want to provide Dr Colleen Palmer, Superintendent of WPS (who has been in this role for only 10 months), and the BOE more time to bring about important structural changes to our great public school system.  

 

Call to action:   

We sent a clear sign to both the Board of Education and Board of Finance. Now please join with us in sending this partial restoration requisition to a full meeting of the RTM on May 2nd 2017.

Please attend RTM meeting tonight at 8pm, Town Hall - where the RMT Boards' of Finance and Education will decide on what amount of restoration to put to a full vote of the RTM on May 2nd. 

Sign and pass on to fellow students, teachers and residents in Westport - and share on social media.

Important Note: This is petition is only open to (i) residents of Westport (any age); or (ii) people that work within the Westport School system.). Please provide your address when signing the petition.

 

Background:
I write to you not as a senior member of the PTA (I have never held a position) or an elected official. Instead, I am a fellow resident of Westport with four children currently in the public school system.

I believe education should be our 1st, 2nd and 3rd priority in this great town. This is why many of us moved to Westport. This is why others will keep moving here. But beyond our homes - this is about so much more. It’s about who we are and who our children will become. Our town education system promotes our core values and drives our future.

Dr. Colleen Palmer (Superintendent of Westport Schools) & BOE have had their budget rejected by the BOF & have been requested to cut their budget by $1.7 MILLION. This is the single largest budget cut considered in recent memory.

Dr. Palmer has been in her new role for less than a year. She needs to be allowed more time to work out sensible structural long-term solutions to improve the budget. Reluctantly, she has been forced to look for short term cuts that I strongly believe go too far.

Some cuts do need to be made near-term. I am proposing here that for FY18 we (i) keep our current employees in place (NO REDUCTIONS TO STAFF); and (ii) keep expenditure on the purchase of library books (NO REDUCTIONS OF BOOKS); and (iii) retain all our current student programs.

I am suggesting that we pause many other equipment purchases. I am also suggesting we don't add new employee positions in the upcoming fiscal year.

 

     Who Knows What Hartford Will Do?

The BOF justifies its cut by guessing what Hartford might do to close The State budget deficit. In doing so, the BOF diverts blame to Hartford while taking the opportunity to seek a cut that necessarily results in reduction of treasured staff members. They are pre-judging cuts from Hartford in an information vacuum.

The situation in Hartford has yet to fully play out, meanwhile the BOF seeks these prophylactic budget cuts when it is not even clear that cost shifting that has occurred to date would require an increase in the mill rate. So why cut now?

The BOF says they are being cautious and that they project an $8 million bill from Hartford for a portion of teacher pensions, and warns that bill might arrive in the fall. Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, however, publicly stated that such a bill is “not going to happen.” Click here.  And just today, the CT House Speaker who proposed the teacher pension cost shifting to towns indicated that he is open to compromising on amount and timing. Click here.

Neighbouring towns like Darien, Greenwich and Fairfield are not taking this approach. They are waiting. Westport’s BOF is not and it is incumbent upon us as school parents and students to demand why not.

Darien and New Canaan spend more as a percentage of town budgets on education than we do in Westport. There are increasing structural issues with our budget, but unless we get a substantial restoration this year - we are stepping closer to dramatic cuts which in future years which could lead to eliminating freshman sports, cutting music lessons below grade 5, and reducing paraprofessionals from multiple grades. This is simply unacceptable.

 

                    IN CLOSING

Should the town and schools spend money wisely? Of course. We need to give Dr. Palmer more time to work on sensible structural improvements over a period of time. In this year, let’s pause nonessential equipment purchases in our schools, but delay outright staff reductions until Dr. Palmer has done a more thorough review. If we continue on the path of these rushed cuts, we do so at our own detriment.

WE MUST ACT NOW AND SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE AHEAD OF NEXT WEEK'S MEETINGS OF BOF & BOE.

Many thanks for reading.

 

Robert Harrington,

7 Old Orchard Road - Westport CT

 

How we come up with the $1.2 MILLION restoration request: 

700m +480M (from lowered health reserve) 

Click here for spreadsheet explaining $1.2

 

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Westport Board of Finance
  • Westport Board of Education
  • BOE
  • RTM
  • Board of Finance
    Lee Caney
  • Board of Finance
    Sheri Gordon
  • Board of Finance
    John Hartwell
  • Board of Finance
    Michael Rea
  • Board of Finance
    Brian Stern
  • Board of Finance
    Jennifer Tooker
  • Board of Finance
    James Westphal

Robert Harrington started this petition with a single signature, and now has 1,664 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.