Weston selectmen approve 1.08% gross budget hike

moneyThe Weston Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve a the 2013-14 town, debt service, and capital budgets, and to recommend a $100,000 decrease in the proposed school budget.

On Wednesday, Feb. 27, after making a few slight revisions to First Selectman Gayle Weinstein’s original proposal, the board voted to approve the following:

  • Town operating budget: $11,690,441 (a 3.32% increase from the current budget)
  • Town capital budget: $733,728 (a 36.03% decrease)
  • School capital budget: $395,000 (a 16% decrease)
  • Town debt service: $694,124 (a 2.55% increase)
  • School debt service: $5,860,508 (a 4.55% decrease)

The selectmen also voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Finance a $46,193,668 school operating budget. That is $100,000 less than the school board is requesting. The school board’s request represents a 1.55% increase from the current budget; the selectmen’s recommendation represents a 1.31% increase.

The Board of Selectmen can only recommend a dollar amount if it chooses to recommend a budget that is different than the school board’s proposal. While the finance board has the power to cut or increase the school budget that will be sent to voters, it is up to the school board to decide how the money ultimately approved is spent.

The selectmen, however, had some suggestions where $100,000 could be trimmed from the school operating budget. These include eliminating: a second contingency teacher; $30,000 for drug and alcohol counseling; $10,000 for new flat screen TVs for the middle school; and reviewing the equipment and software needs for administrators.

The selectmen and the school board agreed that $52,000 for new lighting for the middle school library would be eliminated from the school capital budget request. The $395,000 school capital request now represents a 16% decrease from the current year, compared with the 4.94% decrease originally requested.

First Selectman Weinstein said the recommendation to lower the school budget requests were made because the selectmen felt “the increase in the budget was substantial enough to cover new initiatives plus some money we felt wasn’t necessary. I don’t think they did a full and thorough review of wants and needs,” she said.

“I feel like every year they are looking for the new new thing. Given the financial duress we’ve been experiencing, do we really need to do that every year?” Ms. Weinstein said.

More coverage of the selectmen’s review of and vote on the town and school budgets will be in the March 7 edition of The Weston Forum.

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