By KIMBERLY A. EVANS For The Westfield Leader
WESTFIELD – In an effort to be forthcoming with information regarding its upcoming election in April, members of the Westfield Board of Education gave a presentation outlining the history of the district’s budget at their Tuesday meeting.
Prior to 2010, district officials said, Westfield residents were asked to pay an average increase of 4.9 percent in school taxes each year. Budgets were approved by a direct vote from the general public.
From 2012 to 2021, the state mandated a 2-percent cap for any public district that chose to opt out of the community vote and bring its board elections and budget hearings to the November elections.
Westfield, like numerous other districts across the state, decided to move its elections to November.
At around the same time that the tax levy cap was imposed, district officials said Tuesday, state aid to districts was cut by nearly 65 percent.
As a result, Westfield saw its operating budget reduced by about $4 million per year.
Board members noted that the goals of the district are to bring back some of the assets of the Westfield school system that in previous years had to be reduced and modified.
Other key points brought up in the presentation included that 92 percent of the general fund of the district’s budget is derived from the tax levy. In addition, state aid information is not expected until Thursday, March 2, while the tentative budget for the 2023-2024 year will need to be approved on Tuesday, March 7, to submit for state approval.
Priorities for the members of the board while crafting the new budget were identified as avoiding the impact on students, maintaining existing programs and offerings and remaining within class-size course enrollment guidelines.
Further, it was noted that the budget election is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 25, and will be presented in the form of questions of what residents will approve or what they will not approve.
Board members stated that if the questions are approved, then the budget will pass and current programming will start to improve.
If the questions do not pass, then the budget goes to the town council for review and possible cuts.
Board members added that there will be no chance of reallocation until the following year when going through the budget process again.
Polls will open at 7 a.m. on April 25, and further budget details will be presented at upcoming Westfield Board of Education meetings.
In other business, members of the board unanimously passed a resolution to allocate $35,000 to repair portions of the exterior building façade at Roosevelt Intermediate School.
The next Westfield Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 7.
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