To the Editor:

As we all know, our town’s Board of Finance (BOF) reduced the budget to be presented at the Annual Town Meeting on May 7.  It did so by its last-minute decision to allow no increases in the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and Board of Education (BOE) budgets. The result is a 1% cut in the school budget as proposed by the BOE, equaling a $1.1 million hit to our school budget (even though the BOE’s proposal came in well under the BOF’s own guidelines).

I have strongly opposed that reduction. That being said, I support the BOF-proposed budget as we go into this Meeting and plan to be there at the meeting in person to vote against any efforts to further reduce the budget. All of us who care about our schools need to do the same. Let me explain why (after first ventilating a bit).

For many of us, that 1% cut in the proposed budget translates into around $150 in tax savings a year, or $3 (one grande latte) a week. I’d rather skip that grande latte than see our Wilton schools’ great success jeopardized. In fact as part of its very successful efforts to head off school district regionalization, Hands Off Our Schools has proudly proclaimed to state legislators, through many Wilton residents’ voices, how much we appreciate our schools and all that they accomplish so well.

A $1.1 million reduction has a huge impact on our schools’ ability to advance their work and bring on new programs. Our principal town boards have tried now to remedy some of that impact by making plans to go into the charter authority reserve for the $458,000 needed to fund the very promising–both for students academically and for our town financially–alternative school program within the Wilton schools. It would have been more straightforward simply to raise the BOE budget back up by that amount, but at least the highly advantageous alternative school program is back in our town budget.

So I support the overall budget result as it will be presented on Tuesday evening and must necessarily do so given town procedure if the budget fails in the Annual Town Meeting vote. There are two ways it can fail:  (1) in voting at the polls on Tuesday evening and during the continuing voting on Saturday, and (2) by revision (only downward is permitted) on motion made from the floor of the Annual Town Meeting itself to change the actual budget the town votes on.

Those who favor taking the budget down will be there for sure. So those many of us who favor budget passage also need to be at the meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7 at the Clune Center, prepared to vote down any proposed amendment to reduce this budget even further, and staying to ensure no last-ditch reduction effort succeeds.

Steve Hudspeth

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