Wilton Board of Finance candidate: Peter Balderston
Republican incumbent Peter Balderston would like to spend another term on the Board of Finance delving into budget details in order to find savings for Wilton taxpayers.
“As a finance board member, my duty is first and foremost to be a good steward of our town’s taxpayer dollars. I understand the importance of objective fiscal oversight and long-term financial stability,” he said.
Balderston, 61, has lived in Wilton for more than 28 years and has served one term on the finance board. His financial background includes 35 years of financial experience with firms such as JP Morgan and GenSpring Family Offices.
His goals for a second term, he said, are to preserve “first-in-class” schools for Wilton, support infrastructure improvements and town amenities, maintain Moody’s Aaa rating of Wilton’s bonds, promote fiscal responsibility, and protect property values by maintaining a reasonable rate of tax.
The finance board reviews both the municipal and education budgets, a matter Balderston takes seriously. He calls Wilton’s school system “the crown jewel of the town.”
But with enrollments going down, he said, “We need to tighten our belt where we can to save money. We need to differentiate what is nice to have and what we must have.”
For the school budget, Balderston served as the finance board’s Republican representative on the Board of Education’s business operations subcommittee. “I worked with Wilton’s school administration to quantify and benchmark its academic and educational achievements with a view to using tax dollars as efficiently as possible,” he said.
That work involved reducing nonteaching related costs, allowing the savings to be reinvested in student-facing activities, he said.
“This allowed me to learn that the Board of Education had been overbudgeting their medical costs by using ‘preliminary premium rates’ rather than ‘final rates’ which have been consistently lower. In developing the fiscal year 2020 budget, the Board of Education was able to draw down $800,000 in excess reserves to offset $800,000 in wages and other cost increases,” he said.
Balderston looks at the big picture when working on the town and school budgets, taking factors into account such as the long-lingering effects of the 2008 economic recession, state finances, the local real estate market, capital market conditions, and changes in school enrollment. “Understanding the economic and political context in which municipal budgets are derived is important,” he said.
To make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, Balderston supports collaborative efforts made by the town and schools. Both currently share the services of a chief financial officer and facilities director, which resulted in cost savings from elimination of duplicate positions.
“The CFO change also allowed the Board of Education’s financial systems to be replaced by the town’s financial systems, thereby eliminating duplicate software expenses. This change has also resulted in stronger financial controls and additional savings in insurance and other nonteaching costs,” Balderston said.
He is also supportive of energy cost savings realized from a partnership between the town and schools through the installation of solar panels on school roofs, and the town’s participation in virtual net metering solar projects.
Balderston is proud of the finance board’s track record on taxes during his tenure.
“Mill rate increases were kept to reasonable levels — averaging 1.59 percent per year for the past four years. Nevertheless, the Board of Education was able to increase 2020 per pupil expenditure to $21,195, its highest level in Wilton’s history. This represented a 2.64-percent average annual rate of increase, well above the average annual rate of inflation of 1.88 percent for the same four‐year period,” he said.
If elected for another term, Balderston said he would continue examining town budgets for savings opportunities.