Next week: Budget hearing, final decision by Weston finance board

Tax_MoneyThe 2013-14 town and school budget proposals have been submitted and reviewed by the Weston Board of Finance. A public hearing on the requests is set for Wednesday, April, 3, followed the next night by the finance board’s deliberations and decision on the final budgets to send to the public for a vote.

The finance board moved its deliberation meeting up a week to next Thursday, April 4, at 8 p.m. in the Meeting Room at town hall. The public hearing the night before will be held in the Weston Middle School cafeteria, starting at 8.

On the table are a town operating budget of $11,690,441 (a 3.32% increase over the current year), a $46.29-million school budget (a 1.55% increase), and a combined $1,128,728 town and school capital budget (a 30.2% decrease).

The Board of Selectmen approved the town, capital, and debt service requests and recommended a $100,000 reduction to the school budget request. The selectmen’s school budget recommendation puts it at a 1.31% increase from the current operating budget.

The Board of Selectmen may only suggest to the finance board an amount by which they believe the school budget proposal should be reduced.

The selectmen, however, had some suggestions for 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.

In its review of the school budget on March 12, the finance board spent the most time questioning the amount of school district staff compared to the number of students, especially in light of dramatically decreasing enrollment over the last few years — a decrease that is expected to continue over the next few years.

Most of the discussion about the town budget has centered around the Police Department’s request for additional officers.

The department currently has nine patrol officers, three sergeants, one detective, and one chief. The Board of Selectmen-approved budget  includes a request for one additional patrol officer. The department would like two additional officers, bringing the total patrolmen to 11.

Finance board authority

The finance board has the authority to reduce or increase the town and/or the school budgets, but it has line item control only over the town budget; it is up to the school district to decide how the money ultimately approved is spent.

The amounts approved will go before voters at the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM), set for Wednesday, April 24, at 8 p.m. in the Weston High School auditorium.

According to the new town charter, the budgets may not be increased by the ATBM. Also, a minimum of 2% of all the town’s qualified voters must be present at the ATBM in order to reduce any portion of the budget; if that quorum exists, reductions must be approved by a majority present at the ATBM.

The budgets approved at the ATBM go to a machine referendum vote for final approval.

Machine votes may be cast at the high school immediately following the ATBM, as well as the following Thursday, May 2, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Weston Middle School gymnasium.

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