Letter: Why aren't we asking the right questions?

To the Editor:

I recently had occasion to hear Gayle Weinstein, Weston’s First Selectman, give a State of the Town talk.

While Weston and Trumbull are dissimilar communities, they share an issue that Ms. Weinstein addressed, yet one I have not heard raised here in Trumbull.

Weston is a town of 10,200 residents, with 3,500 homes, a Grand List of $3.6 billion (about 99 percent of which is residential) and school enrollment of 2,600. Trumbull has a population of 36,000, with 12,400 homes, a Grand List of $6.7 billion, and a school enrollment of 6,900.

Ms. Weinstein stated that Weston’s school enrollment is declining, that houses selling for prices above the town median of $800,000 are sitting on the market longer than they did in the past, while less expensive homes garner active bidding wars.
The concern she raised — the question she asked — is whether these are cyclical problems, or a part of a longer term secular trend? Will young families continue to move to Weston, and will enrollment resume as the economy strengthens? Or are homeowners turning away from this semi-rural community with minimum two acre zoning, no shopping (barely a restaurant, nothing even resembling a supermarket, much less any retail), and no immediate access to transit, perhaps in favor of newer smaller homes closer to “the action?”

She and the major town bodies are actively studying the question. While they don’t yet have answer, they have identified what seem to be its major elements.

I would argue that Trumbull faces something similar. Enrollment in our schools is projected to decline for the foreseeable future and the housing market, I am told, is stagnant.

Yet I have not seen any conversation about either. Why is our Board of Education not studying what appears to be a need to redistrict our elementary schools, if not this year, certainly in the very near future (and my analysis, using the BoE's year old numbers, implies that we stand to gain operating efficiencies by closing one of the smaller buildings, perhaps even within five years)? And why has Trumbull’s first selectman not asked the questions his counterpart, 10 miles away, is asking?

Roy Fuchs