First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice is nervous about budget season–$14 million nervous.

With a flurry of legislative activity in Hartford concerning taxes and spending that will impact municipalities–but which won’t be decided until well after town budgets get voted on–it leaves big financial question marks hanging overhead.

“There are a number of proposals which will have a financial impact on the budget, including the teacher pension push down, the possible repeal of the town’s ability to tax motor vehicles, the possibility of a homestead exemption. The three proposals combined would have a negative impact of almost $14 million for FY2020,” she wrote in an email to GOOD Morning Wilton.

Moreover, this year’s revaluation will impact many residents with surprising tax changes and a grand list drop of 2.08%; couple that with federal tax law changes and it’s a perfect storm headed Wilton’s way.

Wilton’s budget season is reaching a critical point in the calendar:

  • Next Monday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. is the Board of Finance public hearing on the Board of Education‘s proposed FY2020 budget (Middlebrook Auditorium)
  • That’s followed on Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. with the Board of Finance public hearing on the Board of Selectmen‘s proposed FY2020 budget (Middlebrook Auditorium)
  • One week later, on Tuesday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m., the Board of Finance begins deliberations to set the mill rate (Town Hall, Rm. B)

This year the Board of Selectmen proposed a 0.92% increase ($305,309) over last year’s budget, well below the Board of Finance guidance of 2.0%. The total budget request of $33,811,304 is comprised of a $32,801,407 operating budget and $1,009,897 in operating capital.

The Board of Education also came in below the guidance it was given by the Finance Board, with a 1.35% increase year-to-year, at $82,983,607; the Board of Finance had suggested a 1.6% increase as this year’s target.

Vanderslice has been raising red flags about the situation for several weeks, including in an op-ed she published one month ago, The State Looks to be the Biggest Challenge to Our FY2020 Budget.

Her concern is that the Board of Finance set guidance for developing the budgets “based on the status quo.”

“What if the status quo changes? How will we addresses those changes?” she asked in her email.

To try to answer those questions, Vanderslice has called for a meeting of all three Boards on April 1, at 7:30 p.m., (Town Hall, Room B) just before the regularly scheduled Selectmen’s meeting. It’s also timed to happen just one day before the Board of Finance begins its mill rate setting meeting.

She hopes residents will attend the public hearings and let the Board of Finance know their thoughts on the current budget proposals.

Board of Education Appeal

Bd. of Education chair Christine Finkelstein similarly put out the call at last night’s BOE meeting, asking supporters of the education budget to attend next Monday’s public hearing on her board’s proposed FY2020 budget.

“Our proposed budget calls for a modest 1.35% increase in spending over current levels, which falls below the 1.6% guidance we were given by the Board of Finance. Our budget increase is once again the lowest of all neighboring districts and this includes one district that has asked for an increase more than three times the size of ours,” she said.

“Despite our smart and lean budget, there are still calls by some in our community for reductions, which is why it’s very important for supporters of our schools to show their support by attending Monday’s hearing and letting the BOF know how you feel,” Finkelstein added.