One of our board members came across a flyer from the 2003 budget season that discussed that year’s “bare bones” budget request for a 10% increase in spending. Ten percent! That amount was, the flyer pointed out, higher than the 7.3% increase that had been suggested by the Board of Finance.
Flash forward to 2017. Last week our Board of Education approved an operating budget for the 2017-18 school year that calls for a zero percent increase over current spending levels. Yet our budget still falls short of the guidance issued by the Board of Finance that we reduce spending by 1.25%.
Critical to note is we are asking for not a single penny more, despite the reality of increased teacher and staff salaries, increased health care costs, and the fact it will simply cost more to keep the lights on in the schools.
I think it’s worth pointing out, though, that although our board unanimously voted to approve the budget (with the exception of board member Glenn Hemmerle, who was not in attendance), each of us expressed deep-rooted concern about the consequences of enacting a budget that fails to invest in our schools. I think it’s widely accepted that the Wilton schools are the jewel of our community, and the number-one attraction for people considering a move to our town. By holding spending flat next year, there is concern within our board that we may be doing some real damage, especially as neighboring districts continue their steady patterns of school investment.
Consider the 2017-18 budget plans under consideration in some of our neighboring districts:
- Darien — 4.5 % increase.
- New Canaan — 2.67% increase.
- Ridgefield — 3.48% percent.
- Weston — 2.5% increase.
- Wilton — 0% increase.