To the Editor:

As residents of Wilton, we are fortunate to send our kids to the school system that the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) named this past December as the highest-scoring district in the state. CSDE determined this across 12 indicators predicting how well a school prepares its students for success in college, careers, and life. From my own anecdotal experience over the past four years with my two children, I continue to be humbled by the degree of enthusiasm toward learning, and personal attention toward students that the educators of this town have provided. The pandemic led to substantial obstacles in managing a school system, obstacles that kept children in other towns across the country away from learning. In my view, the Wilton Schools appropriately managed the balance between community safety and the need to maintain learning for our kids. 

The aftermath of the pandemic has led to challenges for our kids in the form of learning recovery and mental health needs, and across the broader global economy has led to substantial cost inflation to a degree that many of us have not directly experienced in our lifetimes. Our kids right now need the experience and benefits of our great school system more than ever, and despite the significant rise in costs, we owe it to them to provide it. 

District administrators carefully considered the need to cover higher salary, healthcare, special needs, and mental health costs, and Superintendent Kevin Smith recently presented his budget request, which includes a 5.99% increase relative to the FY 2023 budget. On an absolute level, a year-to-year cost increase of this magnitude is of course material, however given the context of rising prices across nearly every aspect of the economy, and the greater needs of our kids after the pandemic, I believe this is actually quite reasonable. Smith was quite cognizant of how this would be received and made every effort to squeeze out efficiencies and cull proposals that would have made the increase even larger. The requested budget increase is lower than several of our nearby towns, again reflecting the reasonableness of the request.

Some in our town have raised concerns in the past about the potential tax impact on residents which comes from increases in the Board of Education budget. Any public cost increase that raises the burden on taxpayers is, of course, something that needs to be carefully considered, however in my view, there is no better place to invest than in the education and development of the next generation. The long-term return on improving the intellectual, social, and physical development of our kids is well worth the potential added burden to us in 2023. Even if we were to ignore the intangible human return from exemplary education, homeowners in the town directly benefit financially from Wilton being a destination for young families seeking outstanding public schooling for their children. The proposed Board of Education budget has been put together by trained, experienced educators, and we should trust these experts, and not allow those outside of the education realm to tinker with specific provisions within it.

It truly benefits us all on multiple levels for our schools to be properly resourced so that the educators, who have earned our trust, can effectively do their jobs. I encourage every resident of Wilton to express support for the proposed Board of Education budget to further its goals.

David Tatkow

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