Wilton Board of Finance candidate: Michael Kaelin
A decision by the Board of Finance this spring to cut the budget presented by the Board of Education, before it was put to voters at the Annual Town Meeting, is what has prompted Michael Kaelin to seek to serve Wilton once more. The former selectman’s name will be on the Nov. 5 ballot for a seat on the Board of Finance.
“It wasn’t just because they chose to cut the budget, but the way they approached the budget, the way they’ve been operating is not the way I think the Board of Finance should be operating,” he told The Bulletin last week.
Kaelin, a Democrat, said he is concerned the finance board is trying to micromanage the budgets for the Board of Education and the Board of Selectmen.
“When I say micromanage, they are getting into specific programs and policies and making their own independent evaluations and determinations on what needs to be spent on the schools and town services. I really just don’t see that as their role,” he said.
Instead, Kaelin believes the board should determine what the town can afford to spend and what the voters in town are willing to spend for both the Board of Education and Board of Selectmen.
“Once they give them that topping number, it’s really up to the Board of Education and Board of Selectmen,” he said.
“People like [Peter] Balderston have been going through each line of the budget and making their own independent determination whether this program is needed and if savings can be achieved in another line item. While it’s appropriate for them to question the Board of Education about that, it’s not appropriate to make specific decisions about it,” he said.
As for the decision to cut the Board of Education back to a flat budget, Kaelin said that was “basically between the four Republican members of the Board of Finance overnight in between meetings … I thought that was fundamentally wrong. Four people talking amongst themselves without any public input and any real knowledge about what the state was going to do in terms of state aid, it was a decision made on the fear we weren’t going to get as much aid from state and we couldn’t afford it. If that was their concern, they should have given the voters a choice at the town meeting whether to make that reduction.”
Whatever that decision “saved us in our tax bill we’re going to lose in the value of our houses,” he said.
Of the decision to fund the alternative school with money from the Charter Authority, he said, “they basically approved taking money from reserve funds and approved using it for operating expenses. To me that’s just bad financial management. That’s not what those reserve funds are there for.”
Asked about major issues facing the Board of Finance, he said, it “needs to be more responsive to the needs, concerns and wishes of the voters in town and they need to take a more proactive look forward at what we’re willing and able to spend money on in town.”
It needs to be more representative of the people who live in Wilton, he said, pointing out no one on the board has children in the schools. He said he would like “the most diverse range of viewpoints represented by the six members of the Board of Finance so we have vigorous and real open discussions about what the choices are and what the consequences of those choices are.”
He would also like to see more positive leadership.
“We need more people in leadership positions in town that actually believe in the town and are positive and excited about it and they can get other people believing in the town and excited about it,” he said.
“There’s so much negativity. When we dwell on the things we don’t like, we miss the many more things we do like about living in Wilton. It’s a terrific place to live.”