At Wednesday night’s Board of Finance mill rate deliberation meeting, the board stopped short of locking in a mill rate, but they did finalize the amounts they’re asking each of the other two main town boards—Education and Selectmen—to cut from their initial proposed budgets.
The Board of Finance voted 5-1 to approve handing back a $400,000 reduction to the proposed $1,016,617 Board of Education budget increase. Peter Balderston, the newest member of the board, was the only member to vote against the $400,000 reduction; he had argued for not letting the BoE increase their budget at all over last year. Last fall, the BoF had given the BoE “guidance” and recommended a 1.1% increase; the BoE came back with a 1.27% increase, a difference of $137,000. The cut the BoF made last night brought the BoF well below the original guidance target of 1.1%.
In addition, the BoF asked the Board of Selectmen to trim $213,000 from their original proposed budget. That amount was what first selectman Lynne Vanderslice had said on Monday night that she could find in her budget for additional cuts. The Selectmen had gone beyond the BoF’s original guidance of a flat budget, bringing in a final number that was $17,000 below last year’s budget; similar to what happened with the BoE, the Board of Finance-requested cut brought the selectmen’s budget well below the original guidance target of 0%.
The board also plans to leave the fund balance excess at $1.5 million, despite some suggestions from former first selectman Paul Hannah and others that the town dip into reserves further than it typically does. BoF member Walter Kress was strong in his insistence that the town not reduce its safety cushion, however. His belief was that it needs to stay at $1.5 million in order to keep the AAA rating from Moody’s. “Once you go to double-A, you never get back to triple-A. That’s one thing this town needs to hold onto and cherish.”
The Board recessed until tonight (Thursday, April 7) to finalize the mill rate. Before they adjourned they had worked to get the targeted mill rate increase to 1.89-percent, and were trying to see if they could reduce that any further. However, no formal resolution to pass that figure had been drafted by the time they adjourned for the evening.
GOOD Morning Wilton will update this story with a more complete account of the meeting, including the back-and-forth with a seemingly unhappy Board of Education chair Bruce Likly, later today.