by Jason Zandri
NOTE – This was my submission for this weeks FROM WALLINGFORD article. The Record Journal could not use it the way I had submitted it so I have presented it below as originally submitted and in its entirety.
They explained the reasons to me and I understand their position and their decision.
Since there’s not enough time for me to create a new submission ahead of the publication deadline I believe the paper is going to run something else in the place of FROM WALLINGFORD this week.
With all the discussion lately regarding the Board of Education budget, reconfiguration, and what the Council and the Mayor will or will not approve there had been a number of different questions that have come up in the different discussions at some of the meetings and online.
Should we fire all torpedoes and raise the taxes?
Should we cut here and fund there?
Should we tap the rainy day fund and if so how much?
What are we planning to do about next fiscal year's costs?
One of the questions that came up from one of the parents that I found interesting and that I followed up on personally was with respect to the number of students that are housed on the Choate campus and attend schools in the Wallingford Public School system.
I thought there was a logical question in this topic.
There are some housing units (a few) on the campus that ARE taxed and ARE feeding into the town’s tax base, so the families that live there and are using the school services are, in effect, paying in (regardless of who is footing the actual tax bill).
There are also other housing units to consider. These are other buildings on the Choate campus that also house Choate students and their families where that real estate is not assessed for tax purposes. In some of these other housing units there are younger siblings and they are students that go to the elementary schools in town.
In an effort to find out what the cost impact was to Wallingford's bottom line with respect to this situation, I decided to contact Superintendent Menzo to see if he had these numbers or perhaps just the number of students that attended Wallingford public schools that lived in these untaxed housing units. As it turned out I needed to follow up with Headmaster Shanahan at Choate to get this information as Superintendent Menzo did not have this data.
I emailed Headmaster Shanahan and asked: how many students attend Wallingford Public Schools and live in housing belonging to Choate that are not assessed for tax purposes?
I didn’t expect the number to be really high (I was figuring about 20 to 24 students – guessing off the top of my head).
I thought it was a simple sounding question but it really wasn’t because there is a little more to it than just what I was asking.
Here is the response that I received.
OUR RECORDS INDICATE THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE 12 CHILDREN FROM 7 TAX-EXEMPT HOUSES ATTENDING WALLINGFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
BUT CHOATE IS CURRENTLY PROVIDING A HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION FOR SOME 56* WALLINGFORD CHILDREN, 50% OF WHOM RECEIVE SUBSTANTIAL (I.E. $2.4 MILLION) OF SCHOOL FINANCIAL AID.
[ONLY 30% OF NON-WALLINGFORD CHILDREN RECEIVE FINANCIAL AID.]
*CHOATE THEREBY IS RELIEVING WALLINGFORD PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS OF THE COST OF EDUCATING THESE 56 STUDENTS EACH YEAR.
This just goes to show you that sometimes there is a little more to a simple question than what meets the eye.
Where some felt there was a burden (and I admit at face value I initially thought there was too) there was actually a benefit.
Wallingford may be footing the bill for 12 additional children but we do not have to carry the burden for an additional 56 high school students. That is a net savings of whatever the cost burden is of 44 students.
I am sure that raising these points is going to have some of the nit-picky crowd coming up with a bunch of counterpoints. Some of the comments may well have some justification but the way I see things in this instance and with specific regard to the Board of Education budget, Wallingford is coming "ahead" of the game with a cost savings with respect to the net additional students.
For me, that is a little ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak and overcast budget forecast.