Hillel Auerbach’s recent letter questions my calculations of the cost of adding hundreds of residents to our town if the Arbor Haven proposal goes forward. He suggests that we should use marginal cost to estimate school expenses. For two reasons, marginal cost simply does not apply in this case.
The Amity school system is a regional system, serving three towns. The Amity school board bills each town on a per student basis – therefore, for each additional student from Woodbridge, the cost to Woodbridge taxpayers increases by $20,000 per year. There is no such thing as marginal cost in this situation.
The concept of marginal cost is also inapplicable at Beecher Road school, because we are currently at the enrollment limit – according to the superintendent’s recent statement, we are using “every nook and cranny” in the school building. Adding the number of students who would result from a large housing development would tip the enrollment over the school building’s physical capacity, necessitating a large infrastructure project. Building an addition onto the school would cost how much – $30 million? $40 million? $50 million? Certainly, much more than the taxes that could be collected on the homes in question.
It is a well-known and broadly accepted fact that residential development is profitable only for developers; it has never been, and will never be, financially beneficial for towns. Indeed, the Highstead Foundation of Redding, CT recently published a paper summarizing 39 separate studies conducted across New England showing how open space land provides financial benefit to towns and residential development creates a financial drain. Open space benefits towns in many ways – in addition to costing towns much less than residential land, open space mitigates the effects of climate change, raises property values for current homeowners, and enhances quality of life for everyone. Let’s maintain our quality of life here in Woodbridge by thinking beyond a short-term cash grab and permanently protecting this land. Future generations will thank us.