Westfield Public Schools moves ahead with budget vote

On April 25, Westfield residents will vote on the 2023-2024 school district operating budget. This budget is proposed with the goal of raising taxes in order to prevent staff and program cuts within the school system and further enhance resources for the district in the upcoming school year.

There are two questions involved in this vote regarding how much the tax levy rate will be raised for the district, according to Superintendent Dr. Raymond González.

The first question relates to the part of the district’s budget reflecting state aid and health care adjustments. The state enforces a 2 percent property tax levy cap, while the district is proposing a 3.95 percent increase in order to avoid cuts to current staff and programs. According to lincolninst.edu, spending may exceed the cap limit if approved by a 60 percent majority of voters.

The second question of the vote regards additional staffing and program support. A 0.89 percent increase is being proposed to cover new items, which would include supplementary academic support as well as counseling in grades K-12. If this provision is not approved, there would be no supplemental funds for the upcoming school year to add to existing programs and spending.

The top priorities for the 2023-2024 budget include avoiding impact on students, maintaining existing programs and offerings, remaining within class size/course enrollment guidelines and beginning to expand programs and offerings.

Last year, the district was $2.3 million short in its budget, which resulted in layoffs for teachers and staff, predominantly in the arts department.

“The 2023-2024 school district operating budget represents an important investment in our students and our schools. District administration and the BOE worked hard to create a fiscally-responsible budget that maintains existing staff and programs and begins to move our district forward with additional academic and school counseling supports,” González explained.

More specifically, the proposed budget will include adding staff to the ESL program, adding academic support teachers in intermediate schools and the early childhood learning center, adding guidance counselors to elementary schools and adding student assistance counselors to the intermediate schools and the high school.

“I encourage every Westfield voter to go to the polls for the district budget vote. Staying involved by simply voting is the best way to support our community,” said English Teacher Nicole Scimone.

Many district parents and taxpayers plan to vote on the budget and hope to make a difference in the community. Chris Quinn, a parent of two WHS students, said, “One of the reasons we moved to Westfield was because of the great school system. It is a critical element of what makes our town special. If we want to continue that tradition and maintain that status, we must continue to fund the school district to its current standards. Besides being critical to our children, it is also critical to our property values.”

The new budget could increase taxes an additional 4.84 percent if both measures pass, and González said he thinks it would be very helpful to the school system. “We feel that the 2023-2024 school district operating budget reflects a thorough and thoughtful approach to public education in Westfield. It is a modest first step toward building a budget that can sustain continued growth and expansion of our school district, always mindful of the impact on the taxpayer,” said González.

Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m. on April 25. To learn more, visit bit.ly/AprilBudgetVote2023 for more information.