After months of discussion, the Westford School Committee unanimously recommended the new Fiscal ’14 school budget numbers that will now go to Town Meeting voters on March 23.
This vote was the last step for the school budget recommendation and planning process, following the end of negotiations with the Selectmen at the end of February.
Superintendent Bill Olsen again told the board and members of the public about savings on items such as renegotiations on the bus contract and net metering, but stressed that the additions requested by the School Committee were vital to maintaining a quality education for students in Westford.
“We have all heard of the last several weeks, ‘Why are we proposing new staff in the climate of fiscal uncertainty?’ Well, I have been here for the past twenty-seven years, and in those twenty-seven years, either directly or indirectly, there has never been an easy fiscal year,” Olsen said. “Yes these are difficult budget times, but if we made decisions simply based on these difficult budget times, then we wouldn’t be the school system that we are today, and we have to keep moving forward.”
School Committee member Arthur Benoit questioned alternatives for shortfalls in Fiscal ’15 as well as backup plans in case voters do not approve the recommended budget number for the next fiscal year.
Chairwoman Angela Harkness replied that despite anything else, the proposed additions will happen one way or another, reiterating Olsen’s point on maintenance of Westford’s standard of quality when it comes to schools.
“I think that there’s been public recognition that we are at the end of the line here, but something has to be done in order to provide the same amount of services. Some choices are going to have to be made, and that’s the choice of the voters probably,” Harkness said.