Editorial: Survey says

Everyone complains about how their tax money is spent, whether it is on the national, state or local level. But how often does Washington or Hartford ask your opinion on how you think that money is best spent?

Later this year, if the Board of Finance follows through with the survey proposal before it, town hall will. This is a step the Board of Finance should take.

According to the board’s clerk, Richard Creeth, this past budget cycle finance members received about 30 emails from residents pertaining to the budget. Finance board chairman Jeff Rutishauser says the number of letters the board receives from taxpayers has declined dramatically in recent years.

“With 12,373 registered voters and only 1,631 of them voting in the last Town Meeting vote, this small number of letters to the BOF is insignificant in gauging what the electorate thinks,” he told The Bulletin. Virtually all of those letters focused on the Board of Education budget and they do not reflect a cross-section of residents. How could they?

To address this concern, finance members appointed a committee to develop the survey and they reviewed the work done so far at their last meeting on June 18. The discussion, which includes a review of draft questions, may be viewed through the town’s website, wiltonct.org. The questions, as developed so far, ask people to prioritize spending needs and also ask where they might cut funding. Soliciting thoughts on growing the grand list is also in the mix so far.

With less than 15% of people coming out to vote for or against the budget and far fewer still offering opinions either by corresponding with officials or speaking publicly at hearings or meetings, it is very hard for those holding the purse strings to parse out what most of their fellow taxpayers want.

Getting a better handle on how people view town spending can only help — not only the Board of Finance when it comes time to recommend a budget — but also the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education with whom the information will presumably be shared. The Board of Finance is to be commended for taking this step.