At last night’s Board of Education meeting, chair Christine Finkelstein made a statement regarding the cuts made by the Board of Finance to the proposed FY’19 school budget, the prior night. She urged voters to support the remaining budget request at the Annual Town Meeting and Vote in May.
This week the Board of Finance reduced our budget request by $500,000.
The Board initially voted to reduce our request by $650,000, but $150,000 was added back in after additional funds were found. A $500,000 reduction is easier to address than a $650K reduction, so we are grateful for that.
It is, nevertheless frustrating because the 2.24% spending request we submitted was very lean and did not include a penny more than we truly felt was necessary.
But the reality is that we must now get behind this budget, and work hard to ensure that it is passed by voters in May.
There is the almost certain likelihood that efforts will be made to cut this budget further. Our town charter allows any resident to stand up at the town meeting and make a motion to cut our budget by any amount he or she would like. And if a majority of people attending the meeting happen to agree, then our budget will be reduced by that amount.
Last year there were two motions. One to cut our budget by $1.5 million and another to cut it by $1.04 million. Fortunately we had enough supporters of the schools in the audience that night to beat back those proposals. Keep in mind that we asked for a ZERO percent increase last year.
We expect there will be challenges this year. What we don’t know is if we can count on community support. So far, we’ve heard from a handful of people either way about our budget. Attendance at last week’s public hearing was very poor, and I could count on my two hands the attendance at Dr. Smith’s public budget presentation.
So this is serious. Wilton has increased its school budget by an average 1.43% over the last four years. And this proposed 1.62% increase continues that trend. It’s the lowest amount of investment of all our neighboring districts.
I really urge everyone right now to take out your calendar and mark Tuesday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Clune Center.