BREAKING NEWS, March 28: Earlier today, the chair of the Wilton Board of Education distributed links to online information about the education budget requests in surrounding towns. In an email to both town officials and Wilton press, Bruce Likly noted that the Ridgefield Bd. of Education requested a 5.27-percent increase; the New Canaan Bd. of Education requested a 4.21-percent increase; the Darien Bd. of Education requested a 3.44-percent increase; and the Westport Bd. of Education requested a 2.05-percent increase.
In comparison, at tonight’s public hearing, the Wilton Board of Education will present to residents its proposed budget for FY 2017, which reflects a 1.27-percent increase over last year.
Since the budget discussions have begin, Wilton’s Board of Finance has suggested that they will likely look to the Board of Education to make further cuts and reductions in order to try to limit or manage any prospective tax increases.
In his email, Likly notes one major area of difference between those comparable towns and Wilton, most notably the sources of property tax income that make up each town’s Grand List, and how that helps reduce the mil rate that determines residents’ tax rates.
“I am sure this will make some people wonder what is happening to the Grand Lists in these towns and what this will do to the mil rate gap some say we face,” Likly writes.
He suggests that perhaps the strategy Wilton currently takes may not be the way to proceed, and that rather than looking to cut spending, the town should look to growing its business tax base and other sources of property tax income.
“Maybe we are having the wrong discussion. Maybe we should be focusing more attention on Wilton’s Planning & Zoning Commission and its Plan of Conservation and Development than we do on our BOS and BOE budgets.”
In a second email to GOOD Morning Wilton, Likly said he also spoke with Jessica Gerber, a member of Fairfield‘s Bd. of Education, which is requesting a 2.59-percent despite an enrollment that is “flat to declining slightly,” according to Likly. He adds that Fairfield has “10,000 students and they are just now looking at introducing world language to third grade… something we’ve already done.”
Likly says that Gerber paid the Wilton school district a compliment: “that several of the [Fairfield] board members are constantly remarking about how amazing a job Wilton does…”
Likly also makes one last plug for the school budget his Board is fighting for, adding that no matter the numbers, it’s the quality of the school district that’s at stake.
“Numbers can tell a lot of different stories but one thing is certain: the Wilton Board of Education is 100-percent focused on delivering the absolute best possible education to the students of Wilton and I believe that our actions and results prove it.”