To the Editor:
We have been asked if the Wilton Republican Town Committee’s endorses the Board of Finance recommended mill rate and budgets. The answer is a resounding yes, and we recommend that the voters do likewise!
If you haven’t voted already, please come out to the Clune Center on Saturday, May 6 between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. to vote in favor of the budgets and mill rate.
Our endorsement is not a given; it was earned by the hard and diligent work by the Board of Finance (BOF).
During the 2021 election, the Republicans campaigned on bringing the budget process directly to the people. They lived up to that campaign promise. The BOF launched a survey to hear directly from the people of Wilton, which indicated that 67% of the respondents were opposed to the proposed tax increase. This survey provides statistical validation that a 5.5%+ tax increase was unfathomable.
Ultimately, after pouring through the numbers, the BOF determined that a 3.66% tax increase best balanced the needs of the town and the desires of the people. This tax increase involves a $2.5 million increase to the school budget over last year (2.9%) and [approximately] $550,000 increase to the Board of Selectmen budget (1.6% increase).
For the schools, the BOF’s goal was to keep per-student spending growth at a similar or greater level as other surrounding towns
On the town budget, the BOF felt confident that a $550,000 increase would still enable the town to invest in the amenities that the BOS felt were necessary (such as hiring one additional police officer).
Please join us in voting in favor of this budget this Saturday, May 6, from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Clune Center.
Chairman, Wilton Republican Town Committee
Wow, as a political tactic I have to say this is pretty baffling — there are an awful lot of parents absolutely disgusted with the budget process, and your response to that is to a) completely ignore those concerns, b) lean on the same stupid survey the BoF did, c) once again pretend inflation doesn’t exist, and d) pretend that the BoF arrived at their budget figure after “pouring” [sic] over the numbers when in reality anybody who watched the dang meeting knows perfectly well they did no such thing.
As somebody who’s rooting for the other team, I’m delighted your response is so thoroughly tone-deaf; as somebody who thinks politics works best if both sides make serious, intellectually-honest arguments for their position, I’m sorry that the Wilton RTC is very much the mirror of the national Republican Party in their utter inability to do that.
(also, please don’t anybody interpret a ‘yes’ vote as endorsing the budget or the process that produced it; the whole system was specifically designed to make it almost impossible to override the BoF and increase the budget)
Quoting statistics about a poorly written, poorly executed survey by the BOF is pretty gutsy. And, it’s pretty silly. As an owner of a firm that does the highest level of market research I would fire anyone who wrote and executed a research exercise that was as silly as the one I received from the Board of Finance. Look, 100% of the people I have spoken with think the survey was awful, and that the BOE budget shouldn’t have been cut. And, frankly, that is as scientific as the survey from the BOF. I personally pointed out my problems with the BOF survey when I responded. I haven’t heard the BOF or the WRTC acknowledge those errors. Vote “no too low.”
Republicans campaign as Libertarians but administer government as Liberals
Tax and spend to no end!!
Laughable if it weren’t so sad.
By “bringing the budget process to the people” do you mean actively ignoring the pleas of the vast majority of residents who came to meetings to express their views, and those who wrote editorials? The idea that a quiet majority of this town is unwilling to make the small sacrifice to properly fund the schools is ludicrous. There was a clear premeditated agenda on the part of some of the B of F members that they were going to reduce the Board of Ed budget ask no matter what, and would vote together to do so. The magnitude of the reduction might not seem large on one-year basis, but if this is the plan of the RTC each year, when compounded over time, the Board of Ed budget will be much smaller than it needs to be in 5 or 10 years time. Especially when it does not keep up with inflation. Sadly I believe that this has been the goal all along. I hope the residents of this town fully understand
this goal, and vote accordingly this fall.
Thank you Peter.
Some people can’t accept that surveys were done three times over the past few years, including one ran by a prominent group of Democratic Party members, using a professional surveying organization run by another prominent local democrat. The results were the same as the current survey, no matter how they worked on the wording to get a different result.
Also, some commenters here, who have no financial skills, insist that the CONSUMER price index for 2022 was more relevant than the existing, in place fixed contracts in measuring the inflationary impact on next year’s BOE budget. They repeatedly cite CPI at 6.5% for 2022, which was driven significantly by housing costs, which are irrelevant to the BOE budget; oil, which peaked at $120 per barrel in 2022 and is now at $69; and food, all irrelevant to the actual price inflation measure of the overwhelming majority of BOE budgets…80% of the Board of Education expenses are compensation and benefits costs primarily fixed by contract, the largest piece being the Teachers’ Union contract at 3.82% ( other contracts have smaller increases), while the school population is dropping 1% + each year…. Netting the 2.9% approved by the BOF. Simple math even for some of those who can’t understand why we don’t use CPI for BOE budgets. Some would suggest that the other costs in the BOE budget will be so much higher than last year, but many of those costs were temporally spiked at budget preparation time…natural gas costs are now down 80% vs. when the budget was put together and utilities are only 2% of the budget, and those rates are expected to decrease given fuel price drops. Those critics have no command of the data, nor do they understand that CPI, which they harp on, is a CONSUMER measure which is irrelevant unless the Teachers’ Union contract had allowed for payment in milk, eggs and fuel.
The comments made in Good Morning Wilton by these frequent commenters, who lack financial acumen, is a disservice to the Town of Wilton as the desire is to use misinformation to scare people by using false and irrelevant data as they have done every year. Those same people say that they would happily pay much more to support our already top ranked schools, but those disingenuous comments were made abundantly clear to be false as they publicly, in this publication, stated that they refuse to join the inspirational people in our town who contribute money to the schools, library, and fields, instead of using excuses that they will only pay if it’s included in their taxes (even though they say repeatedly and publicly that they would happily pay more).
Those critics have no credibility, and the data and assertions they cite are completely irrelevant to the BOE budget.
Thanks to all who support our excellent schools and town services, and to all who volunteer their valuable time and expertise to assure that Wilton continues to have top ranked schools and services.
Bravo Stuart…it’s hard for critics to deal with the. Facts you have been presenting throughout the budget process. Thank you for your acumen, patience and volunteering
Wow, I seem to have struck a nerve here, to the point where you won’t even mention me by name 🙂
Anyway, I’ll dismiss the totally uninformed attacks on my financial acumen and civic-mindedness as a product of your distressed emotional state, I’ll let the actual survey expert address your argument about surveys, and I’m going to refrain from giving any further air time to this ridiculous business about people writing checks to the BoE. I am interested that you choose not to engage with my point about charter reform – surely if your survey is accurate you’d have nothing to fear from voters being able to increase the budget.
But as for inflation, I’m sure you’d agree that as a general principle, school budget increases ought to roughly track with CPI, since as you say, our biggest expense is salaries, and while we may not pay our teachers in eggs, they do themselves expect to be able to buy roughly the same number of eggs every year with the money we pay them. It also fits with the expectations of Wilton taxpayers, since their other expenses, and for that matter their own salaries (and, I might add, their social security checks) track with consumer inflation. So when thinking about appropriate budget changes over the years – as I did in my comment, which was not confined to 2022 – it’s as good a figure to use as any.
As far as the 2023 budget specifically, you know perfectly well that the actual reason you cut the budget by 1.4 million dollars is that Michael Kaelin tossed out that exact number as what he estimated we were spending on coaching, which he doesn’t seem to have actually understood anything about and rather ludicrously believed he could cut to zero with minimal consequences, and the three Republicans on the BOF eagerly pounced on that number as one which, thanks to him, you could get a 4-2 majority for. So please don’t pretend that you arrived at that figure after any great deliberation on your end; you yourself indicated in a previous comment that you would have liked to cut a lot more.
However, in any event, the coaching budget was not a significant contributor to the cost increase for 2023, so if, as you say, the salary and fuel cost increases were also so low, why exactly did the BoE budget request increase so much? Why – in addition to substantial cost savings from the Middlebrook schedule transition – are they now forced to cut a bunch of other programs that they’ve had for years? If you think the BoE budget added a bunch of wasteful spending this year beyond those unavoidable increases, I’m sure Wilton parents would love to know exactly what that spending was, so we can ask the BoE to cut those things instead of mental health and strings and all of the other useful programs they’re actually proposing to cut. Again, you can’t say coaching because we had coaches in 2022 too.
You can’t have it both ways here; if you’re going to claim – as you just did – that you’re adjusting school budgets not only based on prevailing economic conditions but also by auditing their spending and cutting waste, you have to actually take the time to do that – to understand all of the cost drivers of the BoE increase; you should be able to account for every dollar of the proposed increase and for every dollar you would like to cut, rather than just arbitrarily hacking off a number one of your members wrote on a napkin somewhere. If you’re going to do your job in a lazy, slapdash way, then parents like myself are going to continue calling you out for doing so.
Looks like the survey was accurate after all.
On the contrary, the survey detected little or no change in sentiment while “no, too low” saw a gigantic, historic, record-breaking increase (and “no, too high” remained flat). And this despite the superintendent and pro-school-budget individuals like myself encouraging people to vote “yes” to avoid the risk of inadvertently boosting “no, too high” and/or giving bad-faith members of the BoF the chance to cut the budget further.
The survey found that 2/3 of respondents thought the Board of Education’s budget increase was too high and 60% thought the consequent increase in taxes was also too high. If anything, the survey uncounted the town’s desire for to keep spending under control.
An objective observer of the final vote count would conclude that 85% of voters in Wilton either supported the Board of Finance’s efforts to restrain the BoE’s budget or wanted the budget even lower. Far from being “bad faith members of the BoF” as you say, they now appear to be prescient.
Only an ideologue would interpret 14% support for more spending as a mandate to increase the tax burden on the rest of us.
After being lectured for 3 years about the sacred importance of respecting election results, it’s perplexing to read your analysis.
Well no, as I said, I voted ‘yes’ and support a higher budget, and many officials including Dr. Smith were likewise encouraging people to vote ‘yes’ even if they thought the budget should be higher. So it’s completely incorrect to interpret that result as anything like 85% support when people who oppose the budget were explicitly encouraged to vote ‘yes’.
But my point was actually about the change, not the raw numbers; this was by any measure a massive increase in “no, too low” votes, even with so many voters who felt that way choosing “yes,” and yet the survey reported more-or-less the same numbers as last year. So if the survey is accurate, why didn’t it detect that change?
(to be clear, I’m not endorsing the survey in any case – asking “would you like your taxes to be lower” would be silly even with otherwise perfect methodology, and serious elected bodies generally don’t rely on an online survey as a primary input into their decision making – but given how much importance the BoF places on it, you’d think it would be able to pick up on a trend like that; if not, why even run a survey every year?)
And I don’t know that I’ve lectured anybody about the “sacred importance of respecting election results” – I have said repeatedly that the budget process ought to be reformed to improve participation and allow voters to increase the budget directly, but I don’t think I’ve ever suggested that the current Annual Town Meeting system is in any way sacred or respectable; in fact I’ve mostly been saying quite the opposite.
To the extent I’ve said anything about respecting election results, it’s mostly been about the Board of Education, who were elected by the same process as the Board of Finance and know far more about school spending than they do yet are constantly shoved aside in these discussions. (especially in the last 2 years, perhaps due to simmering Republican resentment about the Democrats’ embarrassingly large margins there in 2021)
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