By James Lomuscio
Westport will need an extra $5 to $6 million in its total budget for next year if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to have towns pay one-third of teacher pensions becomes a reality, First Selectman Jim Marpe said today.
Jim Marpe: “a real surprise.” Larry Untermeyer/WN photo
“The governor’s announcement comes as a real surprise, and it will require us to take a hard look at our budgets,” Marpe said. The state is scheduled to pay $17.6 million in 2018 for Westport teacher retirees.
The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on its proposed $115.35 million 2017-18 operating budget, a 2.44 percent increase, on Monday, and Marpe’s proposed $79 million municipal budget, a 1.29 percent decrease, is scheduled to be finalized in five to six weeks, he said.
While seemingly painless fiscal belt tightening has been de rigueur for the school board and the town due to the Board of Finance’s zero-based budgeting directive, Malloy’s proposal has thrown serious concern into the budget process, as an extra $5 to $6 million might have to be factored into the total town budget for 2017-18.
Public schoolteachers in the state’s Teacher Retirement System contribute 6 percent of their salary, and the state covers the pensions 100 percent for each of Connecticut’s school systems, an amount reported to be about $1.2 billion this year.
Next year Malloy, staring down a $1.7 billion state deficit, wants towns to pitch in $407.6 million, $420.9 in 2019. Affluent towns like Westport that pay teachers higher salaries than other towns would be hit hardest, Marpe said, having to contribute more to retirement. (See WestportNow Feb. 3, 2017)
“As first selectman, I am committed to maintaining our world class school system, and we can’t allow this expenditure to impact our quality,” said Marpe, a former Board of Education member.
“The problem has been building at the state level for at least the last decade, and we don’t want it to impact our schools and the rest of Westport’s quality of life.”
Marpe said his administration will be working with the school board and the Board of Finance to assess the impact. He is also asking Westport’s legislators to fight the proposal.
“I would expect our legislators to work on our behalf to minimize the effects of this proposal, if not eliminate it,” Marpe said.