Wilton Board of Finance candidate: Warren Serenbetz
After being forced to leave the Board of Finance due to term limit requirements, Warren Serenbetz wants another chance to help review and manage Wilton’s finances.
Serenbetz served on the finance board for 10 years from 2007 through 2017, and was chairman for eight of those years. Due to term limit requirements, he had to step down from the board, but he’s ready to come back.
A Republican, Serenbetz, 67, has lived in Wilton for 35 years. He has a professional background in finance and business-to-business marketing. He now runs the Radcliff Group, Inc., an investment management company handling assets in excess of $130 million.
During his career, Serenbetz has done budgeting and operational financial reporting as well as strategic planning, market analysis, and customer relations, which he believes are assets for the finance board.
He is chairman of Wilton’s Board of Assessment Appeals and is on the Investment Committee to the Pension Trust.
Serenbetz also has a 10-year history with the finance board. “I think during my tenure I was always viewed as a very balanced member of the board, listening to input from everybody and trying to balance them,” he said.
He noted what he deemed “confusion” and “misunderstandings” this year when the finance board made last-minute cuts to the education budget because of possible mandates from the state. “The solution is to be open and transparent and listen to everyone and give them an opportunity to be heard and give input,” he said.
He said he noticed in the past couple years there has been some feeling that the finance board has become more partisan. “I want to make it a more nonpartisan entity to work in the best interests of the town,” he said.
To open up more dialogue with the public, under Serenbetz’s chairmanship the board changed how public comment was done at its meetings. Initially, public comment was one-sided, he said, with the public only being allowed to make statements. His board changed it to allow participants the ability to engage in discussions with the board.
His board also implemented recording and televising its meetings so the public could be more aware of what was going on, he said.
An important issue for the current board, he said, is providing financial support for ideas leading to economic growth and educational excellence while maintaining a balance between town and school spending needs and the level of taxation on Wilton citizens.
To achieve that, Serenbetz would do things like he did previously. “I would listen to input from all stakeholders to make sure we have public safety and classroom effectiveness needs met and then evaluate which ideas coming from the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education can be further supported by taxpayer dollars,” he said.
During his previous tenure, Serenbetz is proud to have brought the average annual mill rate increases down from mid-single-digit levels to low single-digit levels, he said, “while maintaining town services and Wilton schools’ excellence.”
His previous board instituted getting three-year projections from the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education in order to understand if what was being done each year was enough, he said.
An important financial issue facing the board, Serenbetz said, is maintaining well-funded pension and OPEB Trusts. For that, he would maintain the finance board’s policy of overfunding the actuarially required contribution to the trusts.
“When I was on the board previously, we implemented the overfunding of the Pension and OPEB Trusts. The Pension Trust is now 95 percent funded (an excellent level) and the OPEB Trust is one of the best-funded plans in the state,” he said.
Serenbetz also believes it’s important to maintain Wilton’s Aaa credit rating in order to keep borrowing costs low. He would do that by maintaining the finance board’s policy of keeping a 10-percent reserve in the general fund.