On Tuesday, May 3, Wilton will hold its Annual Town Meeting, the yearly legislative gathering where the Town Meeting (what the legislative body of residents is called in the town charter) debates the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Clune Center Auditorium (at Wilton High School).
The GOOD Morning Wilton Countdown Clock is back on our Home Page. We hope as many people as possible to take part in the process and hopefully the clock will be a good reminder about just why it’s crucial to get engaged and have your voice be heard as Wilton votes on its spending and taxes.
The Town will be discussing the Board of Finance‘s proposed budget and 1.89-percent tax increase, debating whether to accept the BoF’s proposed budget or to consider amending it—and the only way to amend it that evening is to reduce it. Based on what gets decided at the meeting by all those in attendance, the Town Meeting will then adjourn and immediately after, residents will be able to vote on whatever proposed budget came out of the evening’s discussion.
Voting will continue on Saturday, May 7, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in the same location for residents who were unable to vote on Tuesday.
The main budget question on the ballot will read as follows, and voters will have only three options from which to choose:
Shall the budget and tax rate for the Fiscal Year 2017, as recommended by the Board of Finance, or as amended by the Town Meeting, be:
- REJECTED BECAUSE IT IS TOO HIGH
- REJECTED BECAUSE IT IS TOO LOW
In past years Wilton has seen disagreement over proposed budgets. This year discord has hit a high unlike in recent years. The town’s finances are tight, with a $2.6 million budget shortfall between projected revenues and projected needs that the FY ’17 budget was crafted to cover by the three town boards. There will inevitably be discussion, disagreement and efforts to reduce the budget further at the meeting, as some residents feel strongly that the budget as proposed would necessitate a tax increase too large for many citizens to bear.
The Board of Finance gave guidance to both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Education at the start of the budget process. They asked the BoS to come back with a flat, zero-increase budget from FY ’16, which it did; the BoF asked for an additional cut of $213,000. The proposed BoS operating budget for FY ’17 is $31,015,101. The BoF asked the BoE to aim for a 1.1-percent increase; the BoE brought in a 1.2-percent increase that the BoF eventually asked them to reduce further, to an overall .77% increase over the prior year. The proposed BoE operating budget for FY ’17 is $80,576,640.
But news coming out of the state capitol in Hartford that CT’s financial situation is so dire that Wilton may not receive certain funding it expected from the state has brought additional concerns.
There are also two bonding questions on the ballot, and the only voting options on those are “yes” or “no.”
Why it’s Crucial for Residents to Attend Tuesday’s Meeting
The probability is high that, at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday evening, a motion will be made from the floor to amend the proposed budget. According to the Town Charter, the only motion to change the budget can be one that reduces it. If someone wants to change the education budget, he or she can only make a motion to reduce the total BoE budget; if someone wants to amend the town’s budget, he or she can make motions to reduce specific line items of the BoS budget.
Any motions can be discussed and need to be approved by a majority of residents present at the meeting. If residents want their voices heard and want to either make a motion to reduce a part of the budget or protect the budget as it stands right now, the best and most important thing to do is to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Why it’s Crucial to Vote—Either Tuesday Evening or Saturday
If fewer than 15-percent of the town’s eligible voters turn out to vote, the budget will automatically pass—no matter the outcome of the actual vote. That’s what happened last year when the majority of those who voted cast a “No, Too High” vote, but the budget passed as originally proposed because only 11.5-percent of eligible voters actually voted.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to stay away from the polls because “not voting is like saying you think the budget should pass.” In fact, officials who support the budget are concerned that the budget will get defeated because residents who say the budget is too high this year have been very vocal this year.
If the budget is rejected as either too high or too low, the budget then returns to the Board of Finance which will consult with the members of the BoS and BoE and come back to the Town Meeting with a revised budget. The only options then will be ‘approve’ or ‘reduce’; it cannot be rejected outright.