The 2012-2013 budget proposed to the West Hartford Board of Education by Superintedent Karen List was approved Tuesday night, with one revision due to a change in health care cost reserves.
The Board voted on a revised budget of $138,769,729, an increase of 4.47 percent ($5.943 million) over last year's budget. The was $138,894,729, a 4.57 percent ($6.068 million) increase.
The 2012-2013 budget was adopted by a vote of 5-2, with Republicans Lib Brassil Spinella and Ellen Brassil casting the dissenting votes. Democrat Elin Katz, who could not attend Tuesday night's meeting, participated and registered her vote by conference call. Democrats Bruce Putterman, Terry Schmitt, Naogan Ma, and Mark Overmyer-Velazqez also voted in favor of the budget.
Director of Finance and Planning Chip Ward said that the education budget was able to be reduced by $125,000 once two more months of health care claims were included in the experience used as a basis for next year's claim funding. When the budget documents were originally prepared, that line item was based on six months of health care claims, but January and February numbers subsequently became available.
Salaries ($2.56 million increase), tuition ($1.3 million increase), and medical costs represent the major components of the 2012-2013 budget increase.
Prior to the vote, Spinella said, "We all come here with huge dedication to the school system, year in and year out." However, she said she had listened to the speakers at Monday night's Town Council public hearing who expressed the hard time they would have with projected tax increases, and did not support the budget "as a raising of awareness."
Brassil said prior to casting her dissenting vote, "My heart says yes, but my head says no. These very steep increases are becoming increasingly difficult for people. I don’t know how long we can sustain along this path. I just don’t believe that the present model can over time continue."
Ma expressed her support for the budget, and for the work of West Hartford public schools and Town leaders. "It’s a clean town, it’s a safe town, it’s a beautiful place to live. This is a good town to live in and I think we need to sacrifice certain parts of our personal life and do what’s needed."
In his support for the budget, Chairman Putterman said, "The budget is a roll forward budget. We are simply trying to do next year what we’re doing this year. Anything less than that would be some kind of signal that we’re losing our commitment to education. It's shaving a couple of basis points off the budget versus signaling that we’re on some kind of a downward trajectory."
The education budget is a line item on the overall town budget. The on April 24.