The following letter is reprinted at the request of the writer, who spoke during public comment at Monday night’s Board of Finance public hearing on the Education Budget

To the Board of Finance (BOF), Board of Education (BOE), and superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith:

First of all, I’d like to let you know I appreciate your hard work immensely. I felt terrible I didn’t open my comment last night properly. I wasn’t planning on speaking so I apologize for my unpreparedness. I was stunned and disturbed by the audacious statement that the children in Wilton are “loopy” (crazy) and that’s why they need a large number of psychological services. It’s simply not appropriate to speak or joke about children in that manner and belies a lack of awareness in the complicated issues at hand.

The lack of compassion and empathy, two virtues we claim to be paramount in teaching our children, needed to be addressed. Indeed, those are two important tenets in the Vision Statement of Wilton Public Schools:  “All Wilton graduates will … have internalized the virtues of compassion and empathy.” Words matter. These are ideals we’re trying to teach our children here in Wilton. It’s important to lead by example and to stand up and say something when others violate those principles.

A child’s psychological health is not a flippant matter, nor should it be weaponized as an argument to defund services. Not to mention, psychological services are more important now than ever before, as evidenced in recent, tragic mass shootings. Thus, I forgot entirely for a moment, why I came to the hearing in the first place. I attended the meeting to determine if I’d support the lean budget put forth by the BOE. I came to hear opinions from both sides of the aisle and to make a decision.

Please accept this letter as my approval of the budget as it stands with a 0.0% increase and a 0.0% reduction. I truly don’t know how the Board of Education was able to pull it off. I can’t imagine all of the hours spent poring over the details.

That being said, I make a plea:  please don’t cut the budget, we are at bare bones as it is. If the budget is cut, I will vote not to approve it because it will be too low, and will do my best to get concerned citizens of Wilton to do the same. Any more cuts will cause the quality of education in Wilton to erode dangerously. We moved here for the schools and we will move to another town if the education is no longer appropriate for our child. That is our number one priority, as I know it is for most families.

My husband and I are willing to pay more in taxes in order to ensure a good education. If the budget is cut, I’m afraid we’ll see a max exodus of wealthy families who can afford to sell their home at a loss and go to another town that is maintaining funding for their children. The property values here will plummet. I feel strongly that this 0.0% increase to the budget is a breakwater. If the jetty fails, the town of Wilton could experience a mass departure of families. Please, don’t allow this to happen. I love this town and the people in it, and I want to stay.

In terms of Special Education, if children aren’t given proper support, some will need to be put in outplacements at enormous cost. In that case, it will end up costing the town more in legal fees, outplacement costs, and transportation costs. It wouldn’t be good for the students–or for our fiscal responsibility.

I have a 7-year-old daughter at Miller-Driscoll who receives special education services, and I know firsthand what any cuts would mean to the most vulnerable children here in Wilton. Already, ESY hours have been cut drastically for this summer. Parents are beginning to feel an increased reluctance to provide the appropriate amount of services for their children. I know we’re facing tough times financially, but the town of Wilton will suffer long-term damage if there are cuts to this budget.

Thank you for your time trying to do what’s best for our little hamlet and for reading this long letter. I do realize your task is not an easy one, and that you’re all trying to do your best with a difficult situation.

Best Regards,

Calico Burton