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Local News

April 5, 2013

Westport tries to keep levy below state limit

WESTPORT — As in most districts, the yearly headache of balancing rising expenses against the state-mandated cap complicates the budget process at Westport Central School.

It could result in staff cuts for next school year.

The current budget of $5,408,000 compared to projected expenditures of $5,436,021 for next school year leaves a gap of $28,021. 

The allowable tax cap, according to the state formula, is a 3.76 percent increase, while the projected levy stands at 4.14 percent.

“This is the fourth try at the budget process,” Westport Superintendent Dr. John Gallagher said at a recent School Board meeting. “Rumors have been running rampant that we will be cutting 80 percent of our staff.”

That obviously will not happen, Gallagher continued, but “we are in serious financial straits due to state aid, insurance and retirement. It is very frustrating.”

COST INCREASES

Among the larger increases are $31,869 more for Board of Cooperative Educational Services costs, $40,005 for health insurance, $8,300 for the Employee Retirement System and $82,525 for the Teachers Retirement System.  

Gallagher and the School Board plan to use $132,000 of the fund balance to offset the difference. 

“We were told to use this,” he said, noting that school districts are limited to how much can be accumulated in their fund balances, so this is not unusual. 

Gallagher was hopeful that additional state funding will help with the budget gap. He also expects the price of heating oil will decrease 23 cents a gallon.

School Board member Dwayne Stevens wanted to know if the money saved by fuel-oil costs could go into insulation for the bus garage, which might result in additional savings. 

Board member Tom Kohler indicated the money would have to go into the fund balance first.

STAFF CUTS

“In order to make this work, we’re looking at across-the-board cuts in staff,” Gallagher said. “If nothing else happens, on April 11, we will list where savings can be achieved. 

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