Town meets to discuss budget

Superintendent John Antonucci outlines the requests and requirements of the Westwood school budget. Photos by Richard McDonough

By Richard McDonough
Hometown Weekly Correspondent

On Tuesday, February 7, the Westwood Finance and Warrant Commission met to discuss the finical status of Westwood regarding schools, local business and public works. The committee met in the Community Meeting Room to discuss the changing budget conditions and to ensure that public funds are being used appropriately and being reinvested into the community. The presenters included Superintendent Jon Antonucci, Assistant Superintendent Emily Parks, and Town Administrator Mike Jaillet. Issues discussed included budgeting, student enrollment, Westwood Station revenue, snow removal and public safety.

The meeting began with Superintendent John Antonucci outlining the current status of Westwood Public Schools from a financial and practical standpoint. The overall budget request for the school has increased by 3.34% to help improve and enhance school performance which has made no cuts to any of its programing. The largest portion of their budget goes towards teachers’ salaries to ensure Westwood can offer qualified teachers competitive salaries. Teachers are the heart of the education system and the town goes to every length to ensure that Westwood has the best and brightest educating the town’s children.

Assistant Superintendent Emily Parks went into finer points of the budget, specifically addressing the funds’ origins and where they were being spent. While much of the budget comes from the town, portions of it are generated by the state to assist in maintaining the high level of Westwood’s schools. A sizable portion is earmarked for restoring and modernizing some of the schools themselves. Many of the schools are aging and require maintenance to guarantee that parents are sending their children to safe and secure schools.

A notable increase in the budget request included the need for more funding to special education. Because special education students require more attention and funding than the average student, more funding has been requested. Among their requests is to add enough funding to hire additional staff to existing programs. The positions they hope to fill include instructional assistant, resource room teacher and learning center teacher. The Superintendent’s office wants to make sure that every student is given the tools for success by making sure the schools are well equipped to provide well-structured support system. A complete account of the school’s budget request can found at: http://goo.gl/OkQH6b

As the meeting shifted from schools to the municipal budget, Town Administrator Mike Jaillet spoke on how funding for departments such as public safety, public works, recreation/library, and general government are constituted. Taking the lion’s share of the budget is public safety; those expenditures are being manifested in the construction the new Police Station and Islington Fire Station. These new facilities will make it easier for law enforcement and fire safety to serve and protect the community. In addition to new buildings, there is also an increase in man power to deal with increased activity.

The clearest increase in calls to these departments has come as a result of the increased activity at Westwood Station. Fire Chief William Haffler was in attendance to answer any question regarding response needs to the site. He stated that the increase of calls is consistent with the projections they anticipated. As Westwood Station begins its second phase of development, including the addition of a hotel and urgent care center, the Chief assured the committee that the fire department is equipped to deal with the increased activity. “Yes, it is busy. Yes, it has ramped. But we have more people to deal with it, and as we look to phase two, we seem to be ramping up at the same time the calls are,” said Chief William Haffler.

Westwood Station has provided the town with beneficial tax revenue, so prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of the businesses, consumers, and residents there will help the area generate more revenue that can be reinvested into the future of Westwood.

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