LETTER: “Don’t Blame Older Residents for ‘Education Inequity’ in CT”

To the Editor:

About a month ago when I secured my first COVID 19 vaccination appointment, I made a pledge that I would not complain this year about the income taxes I pay to Connecticut, or the property taxes I pay to the Town of Wilton. While I certainly do not agree with every decision that was made, my overall assessment was that the state had done a good job, and the town had done an even better job of handling the coronavirus crisis.

So rather than complain about my property taxes, I will instead complain about the individuals in this town who wrote and/or commented on a recent letter to the editor blaming the “education inequity” in the State of Connecticut on the older residents in town who seemingly are reluctant to further subsidize the educational expenses of other towns. It was suggested that once these “older” residents were replaced with younger, more ‘woke’ residents, we as a town, would agree that this type of tax was a good thing that we could and should afford to do.

To keep this simple, we will assume that two-thirds of your property taxes go to fund the schools (it’s actually over 70%) and the cost per pupil in Wilton is $20,000 per year (again, the actual number is higher). We will also assume that the cost of education and property taxes remain unchanged regardless of year.

If you have three children that attend the Wilton school system for K through 12, the total cost to educate them is $780,000. If your property taxes are $15,000 a year (10K of which goes to the schools), you would have to own your home in Wilton for 78 years before that educational ‘debt’ is paid in full. An unlikely scenario.

So how does your debt get paid? By commercial real estate, childless residents, and, yes, older residents. If these older residents are replaced by families with school age children, there is no one to pay your debt because the school budgets will rise astronomically.

Because my parents moved to Wilton when their three children were in middle school and high school, my sisters and I were in the school system for a total of nine years. My parents owned a home in Wilton for 40 years. Using the numbers in the scenario above, they received $180,000 of education benefits and paid over $400,000 in taxes to support the school system.

The next time you are driving in your Audi to Starbucks after your morning ride on your Peloton, calculate the number for your family. What are you putting in and what are you taking out? Are you willing to stay in Wilton to pay it forward to the next generation of families until long after your debt is paid? Or are you going to relocate somewhere with cheaper property taxes?

I fully understand that all taxation systems rely on those who are not utilizing services to subsidize those who are, and I have no issue with that. However, I would guess that most Wilton families do not realize or appreciate the level of subsidy they are receiving from their older neighbors. If you do realize it, and do not acknowledge it, congratulations. You have just re-defined and exacerbated the sense of entitlement that you often rail against in this town.

If you cannot or will not make the commitment to stay in Wilton for the long term, at least do the ‘older’ people who subsidize your children’s education a favor. Stop blaming them for the problem, stop implying they are racist because they do not want to spend more of their hard-earned retirement money on taxes and stop your virtue signaling chatter about your ‘wokeness’.

Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definition, of woke is “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues”. Like it or not, the primary factor related to this important issue is money. Do the math.

Gail Hiestand

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry, I should have put that more delicately; I did not mean to imply that older residents specifically were the problem. There are plenty of older residents with commendable views on this subject, and there were plenty of younger residents at the forefront of “Hands off our Schools.” I was simply trying to point to the massive political shift that’s already been underway here (even pre-2016) and extrapolate that into the future.

    That being said, since this argument about older residents paying for schools gets brought up an awful lot, I should point out that if you sold your house in Wilton and bought one elsewhere, you would still be subsidizing somebody’s school system (one that had not even educated your kids) through your property taxes. And Wilton’s taxes aren’t even especially high – our school system is generously funded due to the size of our Grand List, not our mill rates.

    Also, I myself spent a decade paying hefty taxes to New York City – and 4 years paying them to Wilton, for that matter – before ever enrolling a child in public school; seniors do not have a monopoly on paying taxes for schools they don’t use, pretty much anybody who owns or rents a home is doing that.

    But that brings me back to educational equity: we shouldn’t be talking about seniors who deign to grace us with their presence in Wilton subsidizing mooching Wilton parents, because this shouldn’t be a town-by-town thing. The whole point of the “mansion tax” is that it begins the process of decoupling educational funding from which specific town you live in. (I am of course saying the quiet part loud here, but it’s true)

  2. Bravo! I am an 84 year old resident of our town who has lived here for 52 years and raised our three children here. They not only graduated from our school system, but used its library, sports program, “Y” and just played in the neighborhood. Can we not, as a community, bear witness and acknowledge what the senior residents have given to our town not just with taxes, but our spirit and commitment to volunteerism and an “old fashion word”…gratitude to the town we not only have lived in, but hope to end our years here, with our new young neighbors. Your senior neighbor.

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