WESTPORT - Throughout the region, superintendents and school boards are bracing for what could be a very tough budget season.
Westport Central School is no different.
"We have to be very careful because of the financial and economic climate," said Westport school board president Alice LaRock. "We have to continuously look at the expenses that we have to raise from taxes and weigh both the concerns of the taxpayers in the community and the obligation that we have to provide a proper education for the students of this district."
School superintendent Dr. John Gallagher said while he has mentioned the budget in every board meeting since the 2010-11 spending plan was passed, he wanted to get to work on the details as soon as possible.
"I want an outline in place of what you want me to do in the next few months," Gallagher told members of the school board at its Dec. 16 meeting. "I want the board to consider the direction in which they want to proceed and what figures they want from me in order to make this process as efficient as possible."
Dr. Gallagher said the ultimate goal is to keep spending at normal levels.
"The goal is to have no increase in the tax levy and have the budget as close to what it is this year," Gallagher said. "Right now, we're churning the numbers and getting ready."
Dr. Gallagher said one concern he has is the extra time that will be afforded New York State Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo as he prepares an executive budget, and what that budget may not hold for schools.
"Because we have a newly elected governor, he is given until the end of January to introduce his executive budget," Gallagher said. "The indications that I have received is that [Cuomo] was working on it already, and it is not a pretty picture. To say the least, our state aid is unlikely to go anywhere but down, and that's to go with increased spending that will be mandated by the state."
Dr. Gallagher said it will be a budget season full of tough questions and tough choices, but he was hopeful that the school and the board would be able to do right by both the taxpayers and the students.
"It's going to be hard work to come up with a budget that is going to be fair to the taxpayers and not hurt the educational programs that we offer at this school," he said. "It's going to take a lot of hard work and time."
School Board to meet
The Westport Central School District Board of Education will hold a budget meeting beginning at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting, on Thursday, Jan. 13, in the school library. All Board of Education meetings are open to the public.