ELECTION 2021: Meet the Candidate — Stewart Koenigsberg, Board of Finance

Bio

Stewart Koenigsberg has served on the Board of Finance for four years and has also served as a trustee of the Wilton Employees Pension Plan and as a member of the Investment Committee. A Wilton resident since 1989, his three children all attended Wilton Public Schools. Stewart is the former president and CEO of GE Capital Markets and has served as a board member of public and private companies, and charitable organizations. He has extensive experience in budgeting and financial management having spent over 30 years in a variety of financial roles at GE Capital including as Chief Financial Officer, Director of Financial Planning, and Strategic Planning; he started his career as a CPA at a large multinational public accounting, auditing and consulting firm.

Op-Ed

Dear friends and neighbors,

I have been honored to serve on the Wilton Board of Finance for the past four years, and to interact with truly exceptional town board members, educators and town employees.

I am seeking your support for re-election so that I can continue to prioritize the highest level of excellence in education and town services, in a fiscally conservative manner. I continue to prioritize maintaining Wilton’s AAA credit rating, and I firmly oppose Hartford’s continuing efforts to “regionalize” our schools or otherwise take Wilton’s property taxes for use outside of Wilton. I also support increasing our commercial tax base in order to diversify and improve services, and town recreational offerings, while driving down the property tax rate.

I have a track record of community service and a professional background that has allowed me to play an influential role in managing town costs, while maintaining and improving the highest quality schools that we all so highly prioritize.

I have lived in Wilton for over 30 years. My three children were all educated in Wilton’s exceptional schools. I have extensive experience in financial management. I spent my early career as a senior manager/CPA at a Big Four accounting firm, and then spent 26 years at GE, where I was a GE Company Officer and I managed all capital markets activities worldwide. Previously, I was the CFO of some of GE’s largest divisions, and had led all budgeting, planning and strategic planning at GE Capital. I have also served on a number of public, private, and not-for-profit Boards of Directors.

Since joining the Board of Finance four years ago, I have undertaken significant efforts in reviewing all details of our town’s line-by-line item spending and performance, along with benchmarking those of other towns using external sources. I have identified opportunities to keep overall budgets and crucial priorities in balance. I have supported more student-facing educational spending, while opposing unnecessary, and low-impact non-student-facing spending.

During that four-year period, we have kept taxes down and improved quality.  Both our tax mill rate and our tax levies are actually lower, while our town services and educational performance and reputation have improved … with more work to be done in performance and cost optimization.

In the most recent rankings, the most trusted national and state education survey, US News & World Report, upgraded Wilton High School to the sixth best in Connecticut, while Niche.com also upgraded Wilton to number five — all while reducing taxes. Not all members of the Board of Finance were in favor of questioning or pruning any spending whatsoever in any area, arguing that “armageddon” would follow. They were wrong.

Dr. Kevin Smith and his team, along with the Board of Education, have done a great job in improving performance and efficiency. [First Selectwoman] Lynne Vanderslice and her team have managed the town incredibly well.

Our town servants have done an exceptional job through the challenges of COVID.

Even with reductions in taxes and the mill rate, Wilton spends more per student than higher-ranked Darien and New Canaan, according to the most recent available comparative data. Our goal should be for improvement of all educational metrics and ranking while streamlining spending. Clearly, people come to Wilton for the schools, and property values are dependent on the quality of the schools.  The challenge is to reach educational and performance goals while optimizing cost-effectiveness. COVID has and will continue to impact our students, teachers and town employees and services, requiring skilled, experienced personnel and experienced oversight.

The Wilton Board of Finance is an oversight function, which needs to be performed by members independent of loyalties to anyone but taxpayers and requires the skill set, the dedication, and the willingness to ask tough questions in order to optimize taxpayer spending. The results of our surveys and solicitation of input from town residents indicate the clear mandate for excellent schools and town services, at fiscally responsible cost levels. Residents have come forward with their ideas, but our voter turnout has been quite low. I encourage you to get involved, and vote. Please feel free to contact me at  via email, or the BOF at via email so that we can better represent you.

Thank you.