With the ink barely dried on the FY2024 budget, Wilton’s Board of Finance (BOF) has taken a preliminary peek at what FY2025-2026 budgets and mill rates might look like — and it’s a sobering view.

Early budget projections for FY’25 and FY’26 budgets from the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and Board of Education (BOE) are very rough, but analysis by the BOF suggests future mill rate increases could be higher than Wilton has historically seen. That analysis is raising the likelihood of intervention by the BOF earlier in the Town’s budget planning process, including a priori guidance to the BOS and BOE before they make their budget requests.

After working closely with First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice on a number of key assumptions, BOF member Matt Raimondi led the data analysis that was discussed at the Sept. 12 BOF meeting, (Vanderslice also attended the meeting.)

Two documents containing the detailed charts may be found on the Town website.

Early Budget and Mill Rate Outlook

Raimondi began the discussion with a caveat about the budget and mill rate scenarios he presented.

“These projections are highly preliminary, ” Raimondi said. “It’s a preliminary view about, directionally, where the budget increases could go.”

“The purpose of this presentation is to help us [BOF] determine whether or not we want to provide guidance for FY’25 and if so, at what number that guidance should be,” he continued.

In the scenario Raimondi presented, the preliminary budget numbers provided by the BOS and BOE would result in a 5.5% increase in total operating requirements in FY’25 followed by a 3.3% increase in FY’26.

Factoring in some assumptions for Grand List growth and other revenue sources, the resulting mill rate in FY’25 would be roughly 30.79 — a 5.2% year-over-year increase.

In that scenario, property tax revenue would need to increase by 6.6%.

Board member Rich Santosky commented on the numbers.

“As we start to look at a 5-plus percent increase in the mill rate, which I think would be somewhat historic… we need to balance that with what do [we] think will be palatable to the taxpayers and at what point do they vote no, too high?” he said, alluding to results of previous budget votes with more moderate budget increases.

The property tax increases included in the BOF analysis do not account for the property revaluation that will take place later this year.

Vanderslice began warning residents months ago that the revaluation process would likely result in a shift in property tax burden from commercial property owners (who have seen declining property values) to homeowners (who have seen rising property values).

Budget Guidance

[Editor’s note: before the FY’24 budget process, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice made multiple requests for budget guidance from the BOF, which the board did not provide. Ultimately, the BOF asked both the BOS and BOE to reduce their budget increases before the BOF recommended budgets to voters at the 2023 Annual Town Meeting.]

During the Sept. 12 meeting, BOF Vice Chair Stewart Koenigsberg said setting guidance is “a good objective to have this year.”

He noted that contractual obligations, namely for BOE salaries, would be a key driver, but other factors, such as changes in student population, would also need to be considered.

Board members at the meeting seemed to concur that the BOF should provide budget guidance this year. (Note: BOF Chair Michael Kaelin was not in attendance.)

Chris Stroup emphasized that the guidance should not be binding; the BOS and BOE should recommend the budgets they feel are needed.

Vanderslice agreed with Stroup, saying BOF guidance would be “directional.”

Stroup also emphasized the importance of documenting the rationale for the board’s guidance, especially in light of potential changes in board membership after the November municipal elections.

Board Member Sandy Arkell said she believes “a tradeoff conversation” will be critical for residents to understand where trimming budgets could impact Wilton schools.

Vanderslice suggested the board provide such guidance in October.

The board agreed to continue to adjust their projections as more precise data becomes available.

More BOF News

  • The BOF is gearing up to begin providing residents with financial data and budget information in a more direct and routine manner. Potentially using Vanderslice’s popular monthly email updates as a model, the board hopes to improve residents’ access to and understanding of the data the board relies upon in making its recommendations on annual budgets and the mill rate. The board also intends to utilize the the Town website as an easily-accessible “repository” for information used in the budget process. (To subscribe to email alerts for town news and announcements, visit the Town website. E-alerts are also available for meeting agendas for the BOF and other town boards and commissions.)
  • Leslie Zoll, a principal with CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, attended the Sept. 12 BOF meeting to explain the scope of the annual audit that will take place this fall. Wilton’s Chief Financial Officer Dawn Norton is aiming to have information prepared for the audit by Sept. 15, but cautioned that staffing issues and the Town’s implementation of a new software system could impact the timing. In the “best case” timing scenario, Zoll told the board the audit could be completed in November.

Join the Conversation


  1. Mr. Koenigsburg suggested last spring – in attempting to retroactively justify that cycle’s arbitrary and capricious BOE budget cut – that simply taking the contracted change in teacher salary and adjusting it by the change in enrollment was a good formula for determining an appropriate BOE budget, something echoed by his comments in this article. While I disagree with this (since, as I’ve said here several times, you can’t hire or fire 1/20th of an art teacher), given that enrollment is actually up slightly, I believe that applying his formula this year would almost perfectly match up with the projection in this spreadsheet. So if he wishes to remain intellectually consistent (admittedly maybe not something he worries about too much) he’s going to have little choice but to support budget guidance in line with that projection.

    (I would also note here before someone else does that while my own proposal – tied to CPI with a weighted adjustment for enrollment – would actually have come up with a smaller number than that this year, over the last two combined it would still be higher [as over pretty much any longer time period], and that at any rate, I was trying to make the larger point that if they had a consistent year-to-year formula designed to make sense to voters, it might allow the district to plan future spending around that formula, so that everybody wouldn’t be getting all shocked about a contractual increase we’ve known about for years)

    On a larger point, while the individual taxpayers’ share of the burden may go up or down with a revaluation, home prices are, in general, way up since the last one, so the actual mill rate will likely go down substantially. While not affecting people’s actual tax bills – it just means everyone has a bigger piece of a bigger pie – I do think that the impact of the increase will be concealed, or at least greatly blunted, by the fact that it’s coming at the same time that most of us are learning we have substantially more equity in our houses than we thought we had a few years ago, and that the percentage of that equity that we’re paying out in taxes is now lower.

    Between that and the general sense that last year’s budget cut too deeply, if there’s any year that Wilton taxpayers can be expected to countenance a 6.6% increase – assuming the BOF keeps their disingenuous survey-fielding noses out of the process – it’s this one.

    It’s good news that they plan to offer budget guidance this year, but since 3 of the 6 members of the BOF (including 2 of last year’s budget cutters) will not be returning in January, it seems like that guidance could be adjusted substantially up or down depending on how the election goes, so it’s probably the worst possible year for anyone to rely on it. But with any luck, in January we’ll end up with 3-4 BOF members who either believe in robust BOE budgets or, if not, at least believe in leaving the reduction of those budgets up to the voters rather than their own whims, and things might get substantially better going forward.

  2. Sorry, I realized I ought to supply a citation for my assertion about Koenigsberg; it’s from a comment he made on May 6th in [this article](https://goodmorningwilton.com/letter-wrtc-endorses-town-budget-vote-yes-on-saturday/) while he was getting indignant at me about the whole CPI idea:

    “80% of the Board of Education expenses are compensation and benefits costs primarily fixed by contract, the largest piece being the Teachers’ Union contract at 3.82% ( other contracts have smaller increases), while the school population is dropping 1% + each year…. Netting the 2.9% approved by the BOF”

    While I seriously doubt this formula had any actual bearing on the number the BOF came up with – largely the result of “vibes” plus assorted dark whisperings in Michael Kaelin’s ear – he was, nevertheless, using it to defend the reasonableness of their budget, and it’s reasonable to expect him to answer for it now.

    But I actually made a mistake in my own calculation by relying on Mr. Raimondi’s slide with its 0.25% or so enrollment growth; per Dr. Smith’s [update](https://goodmorningwilton.com/back-to-school-updates-superintendents-10th-year-higher-enrollment-and-student-achievement-gains-highlight-wilton-boe-meeting/), our enrollment was actually up by a whopping 2.5% at the start of the year (perhaps Mr. Raimondi misplaced a decimal point), so if you combine that with the contracted salary increase, you end up with a total increase of 7.83%. I trust we can expect Mr. Koenigsberg and his fellow Republicans to endorse that number now.

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