Following this week’s Annual Town Meeting, resident Peter Squitieri submitted the following Letter to the Editor, in which he reflects on Board of Finance member Peter Balderston‘s analysis of Wilton’s budget, published in GOOD Morning Wilton in April. This is Squitieri’s third letter to the editor on the topic.

To the Editor:

The section called ‘Equitable Sharing of Tax Hikes’ is a textbook example of how to misrepresent data to paint the economic picture you want, even if it’s far removed from reality.  [1]It’s a perfect storm of mumbo-jumbo, misrepresentation, and just plain mistakes.

The author’s ‘YoY BUDGET DIFFERENCE’ is $12.124 Million, almost twice the actual budget increase, and 81% more than the actual increase in tax collections.  The misrepresentation is in using ‘YoY BUDGET INCREASE’ incorrectly for a completely difference concept, helped along by blatant double-counting.  But even with the vast semantic chasm between what we normally mean by ‘budget increase’ and the way the author uses it, how did we possibly get to that discrepancy?    Read below to see how.

This is the chart presented in the op-ed:[2]   The arrows point to the descriptions and the total increases:

Compare those numbers with the actual numbers from the adopted budgets:

Now let’s see how he did it:

It might not have been so bad if the section had been labeled ‘What the Budget Increases Would Have Looked Like if We Hadn’t Cut Budgets in 3 of 5 Years’ (although the calculations still would have been wildly wrong).  But it wasn’t, it was labeled to make the reader think that these were the real increases. All the errors served to make the ‘YoY BUDGET INCREASE’ almost twice as large as it really was.

Finally, the mumbo-jumbo.  The op-ed says it’s concerned about ‘spreading the load of the change across the town’.  Nonsense. A budget cut cuts taxes proportionally for everyone, and the high-end houses benefit from it muchmore than the lower-end housing.  I live in one of the lower end condos, and expect a tax increase of 16% this year, on the very high end of increases. If the budget had been left as it was, I would have paid another $126, which I’m sure I could afford.  And since, as I mentioned in a prior letter, residential taxes all told will decreaseby about $2.5 million this year, with the vast majority of it going to higher-end housing, it looks like the intent was to distribute the change in the other direction.

It’s amazing how much misinformation and faulty calculation can be packed into two paragraphs totaling 129 words. Perhaps this was written by a staff member, but we should expect better in an op-ed published by the Board of Finance itself, shouldn’t we?

Peter Squitieri

[1] https://goodmorningwilton.com/bofs-balderston-op-ed-wiltons-fy20-budget-a-perfect-storm-of-cts-ailing-economy-grand-list-woes-student-enrollment-declines/

[2] IBID

[3] https://goodmorningwilton.com/breaking-news-bd-of-finance-slashes-1-1-million-from-proposed-school-budget/

[4] https://www.wiltonct.org/finance-department/pages/budgets.  I use the ‘Total Expenses’ figure

[5] IBID.  I use the ‘Division Total: Tax Collector ‘  figure

[6] There is an additional unaccounted for difference of $205K between the author’s tax calculations and mine.  Since the author, understandably, didn’t give any sources, I’ve used mine.