At last night’s Board of Education meeting (Thursday, Feb. 4), the Board members voted unanimously to approve the 2016-17 school year budget proposed by superintendent Kevin Smith. The current budget proposal for ’16-’17 requests a spending increase of 1.27-percent over this current year’s spending. The total amount that is currently being asked for is $80,972,640.

Read our interview with Kevin Smith about the budget, here.

Even though it passed unanimously, there was discussion among the board members about the theoretical question of whether the budget is enough for what is needed to education Wilton students, and whether it is enough

Board member Chris Stroup started the conversation, suggesting the budget might be too low.

“I am prepared to support the budget, but my personal view, based on what I’ve heard and observed, is that we are underspending,” Stroup said. “And I am uncomfortable with the increasing ratio of students to teachers in the Wilton Public Schools. And I would be far more supportive of, rather than a 1.5 percent increase, something akin to a 2.5- or 3-percent increase. Which would still be within an aggregate inflation target, which means in real terms no change in spending. Having said that, if the balance of the board wishes to adopt, I will vote in favor.”

Chairman Bruce Likly asked Stroup if he’d analyze the situation.

“Could you be willing to work on a better analysis of what it costs us and deliver education and how that education would be delivered more effectively, in a 5-year plan?”

Stroup agreed.

Member Glenn Hemmerle pointed out that Wilton’s budget increase is much lower than at least one neighboring town and commended the administrators with doing so much with little.

“I agree with Chris. The work done by the administration to come in with a 1.27-percent increase, when New Canaan presented a 6.5-percent increase is remarkable. If the Drs. [Kevin and Chuck] Smith can meet their objectives for the coming year, it really is remarkable, in light of the built in increases we have. It shows a recognition on their part of the environment in the community. Presenting this budget versus a New Canaan budget of 6.5 percent really should engender community support.”

Hemmerle added that he though looking “at what we could do with an added 2-percent is certainly a valid question.”

Lory Rothstein echoed her colleagues and acknowledged the sentiment expressed by many voters of wanting to control municipal spending.

“To that point, you would have to lay out specifically what you’d do with that extra investment and what impact you think it would have; otherwise there’s no way you’re going to convince this community, and the BoF specifically, to support that increase. How do we educate the community on another 3-percent increase and what we could do with it and once we have it, how do we show them results?” she said.

Laura Schwemm said that the administrators have done an admirable job putting together a budget that includes so many initiatives despite keeping spending low, adding that, “sometimes you come up with best solutions when you don’t have the money. We’d love to give everyone everything, but I think we should be satisfied with what we’re doing with what we have, and we’re doing a lot.”

3 replies on “Though Some Would Like It Increased, Bd. of Ed. Approves Proposed Budget”

  1. … and at the end of the day, here comes yet another tax increase that will fall disproportionately on the backs of retired seniors on fixed incomes. Those that think Wilton kids are under supported financially should feel free to write a personal check to the Board of Ed whenever thy wish. It won’t be turned down.

    I would suggest that the Board might start looking for fat with a complete audit of course offerings, particularly at the High School. Where is it written that the town should be providing Engineering and other college level courses?. If some parents think that adds value, they should consider private schooling for their children. It all comes down to priorities and taking responsibility.

  2. We repeat a message we have delivered scores of times over the years. Many folks move here because we have a superior educational system and facilities. We did so 46 years ago and our children went K through 12 and on to fine universities.

    Before we arrived in Wilton many very caring people developed and paid for the system we enjoyed. We want to preserve that quality of education and want to leave that legacy for those who will follow along. There is a cost to quality and we, along with the majority of seniors in Wilton, are more than willing to do our part to preserve those standards.

    Wilton is most fortunate to have a very qualified group of volunteers and professionals and we have every confidence in their judgement, planning and projections.

  3. A) Given the plethora of “For Sale” signs on every Wilton road, it would seem obvious that more people are trying to leave town than move to it. The reason is that we have taxed ourselves out of parity with surrounding towns and our school system, while adequate, is no better than those in towns that offer more than a walking trail and pond.

    B) Given last year’s budget vote when most voted “No. too high” it is a stretch to say that “the majority of seniors in Wilton” are now in favor of further unbridled spending this time around.

    C) Like all towns, Wilton is fortunate to have many volunteers to lead and?or take up the slack. However, blind faith in volunteers and elected town officials by too many citizens is what gave rise to a call for transparency and reduced cronyism in Wilton’s town government. When an “In Crowd” believes that it can ignore the concerns of all citizens, then its judgement, planning, and projections are suspect.

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