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?”
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.”