Letter: Enrollment report paints rosy picture

To the Editors:
Milone & MacBroom’s 30-page report on enrollment projections was presented at the Board of Education meeting last week. It is well worth the read not simply for the actual enrollment figures it reports and for its enrollment projections through the 2022-23 academic year, but also for the broad and detailed factual information about Wilton over recent years the firm used in its modeling for enrollment projection.
Housing sales in Wilton “have recovered more quickly in the past several years than the average in Fairfield County.” (Report, p. 13). Unemployment in Wilton has dropped to 4.4% (November 2014 [p. 5]) versus a national average of 5.7% in November and 5.5% as of February 2015. “Demographic trends indicate that families are moving to Wilton with children who are at or near school age and will soon enter the local school system.” (p. 13; see also p. 10). Wilton’s actual annual births appear to have bottomed out in 2012 at 104 births and have risen by 10% since that time to 114 births in 2013 where they seem to have leveled out again, though full 2014 data is not yet available (p. 7, graph).  The firm’s medium projections take births to 134 in 2016 and 149 in 2017 (back roughly to where they were in 2009:146 births) (p. 27, chart).
From this and its other data, Milone & MacBroom deduces in its three enrollment projections a modest “8 year change” (through the 2022-23 school year) in enrollment of Miller-Driscoll age-range students of from -8.5% (“low enrollment projection”) to -7.1% (“medium”, and they believe the most likely: “In our judgment, the medium growth scenario presents the most appropriate model for long-term projections over the eight-year planning horizon of this study” (p. 24)) and -5.3% (“high”) (pp. 26-28, charts). Meanwhile, comparing census data from 2000 with 2010, far from having an exodus of seniors the population of those 65 and older in Wilton living alone has actually risen by a whopping 50% (p. 10, chart) and constitutes “the fastest growing segment of households.” (p. 9).
This data shows Wilton to be in a good place right now in terms of retaining seniors as well as attracting young families, and recent town and school budget discussions also sound quite encouraging.
All of this information is very affirming for our town and owes much to careful town planning over multiple years to get us through the Great Recession, done not only by our town’s paid leaders (first selectman, school superintendents and their operational and administrative staffs) but also by many of our fellow citizens who have been volunteering their time to serve on town boards and committees. The objective data on our town reflected in Milone & MacBroom’s report shows just how much has been accomplished in and through very difficult economic times. That’s something about which our town’s leaders, both paid and volunteer, can be proud and for which we can all be very grateful.
Stephen Hudspeth
6 Glen Hill Road, March 28