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Westport school board, teachers make agreement that balances budget

Westport Central School Superintendent Dr. John Gallagher. school board president Alice LaRock and board members Jim Carroll, Dwayne Stevens, Sue Russell and Tom Kohler.

Westport Central School Superintendent Dr. John Gallagher. school board president Alice LaRock and board members Jim Carroll, Dwayne Stevens, Sue Russell and Tom Kohler. Photo by Katherine Clark.

— The Westport Central School board approved a $5,505,000 2013-14 budget to put before voters at a regular meeting on April 25.

With the joined cooperation of the teachers association and the school board, an agreement was made that will keep the budget from exceeding the tax cap while keeping staff and curriculum.

“We knew at the beginning that we were looking at well 15 percent increase in the tax levy and we knew that was unacceptable,” said Superintendent of Westport Central School Dr. John Gallagher. “We were looking at the possibility of having to reduce the staff across the board, half positions, quarter positions, and reductions in sports in order to get the budget to reach a level it had to be by the law. “

Gallagher thanked the teachers association working with the board to secure jobs of all current employees.

“As a result of that the teachers have made significant adjustments in their health insurance program which for this year represents a $40,000 cost savings and year over year in health insurance premium savings,” said Gallagher. “The reduction in health insurance premiums are much greater savings as a result of what they’ve agree to and over the years will result is much higher savings than $40,000.”

Gallagher said the board and the teachers association have been in discussions for weeks to find a way to keep jobs across the board. Along with the reductions in health insurance, the teachers have also agreed to eliminate an incentive that is paid to teachers with a Master’s Degree. Gallagher said the incentive was included at a time when a Master’s Degree was not mandatory to teach in public schools.

“The process with the teachers was extremely cooperative and definitely two-sided,” said Gallagher.

Gallagher said other things happened to help WCS reach a goal the board was happy with. For one, the district received an increase in state aide of $62,000 where it was first projected to be closer to $14,000 and the board also allocated the use of $144,000 in fund balances.

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