First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice emailed a monthly update to residents on Monday, Jan. 31, and she leveled with them right from the start, telling them this will likely be a costlier year for everyone when it comes to funding the town’s FY 2023 Town budget.

The Board of Selectmen will begin discussing the proposed FY 2023 operating and operating capital budgets at the Monday, Feb. 7 BOS meeting.

Vanderslice warned residents that this year’s budget likely won’t resemble the leaner budgets she delivered the first six years of her time in office. During that time, she said kept the average annual BOS combined budget increase at 0.54%, even with a 2% average annual CPI increase, and rising expenses from unfunded state mandates and population growth over the same period.

Vanderslice explained that budget increases were kept in check through several initiatives: consolidating positions; sharing personnel with the Board of Education (primarily in finance and facility management); changing the medical benefits provider; moving to lower cost renewable energy; and increasing the use of technology.

However, Vanderslice said, that won’t be the case in the coming year.

“Unfortunately we don’t have new cost saving initiatives to significantly offset the increased costs in our FY2023 proposed budget,” she wrote.

In fact, rather than eliminating or consolidating positions, Vanderslice is proposing to add new staff to meet changing needs of the town, although she justified the new positions by explaining how they’ll benefit town operations and finances.

  • Reinstating a sixth Parks and Grounds crew member: Vanderslice said this position had been eliminated more than 10 years ago after the 2007 recession, but the need for an additional crew member has increased along with “higher resident expectations.”
  • Hiring an engineer for the Department of Public Works: This is a position Vanderslice hopes to fill during the current fiscal year (2022) using budget savings. She said the $130,000 annual cost “will pay for itself many times over.” “It will expand our capacity to manage the historical level of state and federal multi-year grants available to municipalities, including the more than $20 million of recently received bridge replacement grants, several million more in new bridge replacement grants expected to be received over the next several years and new grants for other infrastructure being made available through the Federal Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act. 
  • Hiring a Town Administrator: Vanderslice has been leading the discussion during the past few BOS meetings advocating for a town administrator to help with the more complex scope and increased responsibilities of the first selectperson’s office. “A professional municipal administrator will have the experience and background to handle day-to-day oversight and allow the first selectperson to focus on long-term planning, regional opportunities and initiatives coming out of Hartford. The position will ensure professional management and continuity of government, regardless of a change in first selectperson and regardless of the first selectperson’s relevant knowledge or experience,” Vanderslice reiterated in her update.

She also made the pitch that the cost of the town administrator would be covered in savings the town realizes from having a Chief Financial Officer shared between the Town and Wilton Public Schools, a move made four years ago. “The change to a joint position resulted in improved financial operations and reporting and a combined BOS and BOE savings of more than $250,000 per year for the four years of the change.  The cost of the Town Administrator position is expected to be equal to the shared annual savings,” Vanderslice wrote, adding that a new town administrator would also be expected to identify new opportunities for cost savings as part of the job.

Spending Priorities

Vanderslice said town officials will also use the budget discussions to finalize how to prioritize federal money Wilton will receive from the the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant. In addition, the town has over $1 million in an infrastructure fund from budget savings in FY 2021.

Officials have already identified two priority areas for allocations: a new emergency radio communication system and flood mitigation and drainage upgrades for the Wilton High School‘s fields.

Vanderslice said other potential items in need of funding that officials would consider include (not in any specific order):

  • replacing pillars and front steps at Town Hall
  • necessary repairs to other town-owned buildings
  • flood mitigation and drainage upgrades of other town fields
  • trail upgrades
  • Schenck’s Island and Merwin Meadows parks upgrades
  • irrigation of sports fields
  • upgrades to the yellow house at Ambler Farm

It’s possible that town officials can use ARPA funds as municipal match money to secure additional federal funding as part of the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). “We hope to leverage both ARPA and infrastructure funds to receive IIJA grants, thereby increasing the scope of work that can be accomplished with the monies. (Additional information is available on the town website.)

Annual Town Meeting Bonding Referendum — Police Headquarters Update

Town officials are also planning on bringing a bonding request for funding the Police Headquarters project to town voters at the Annual Town Meeting in May. Project architects and cost estimators have been finalizing their work and are scheduled to present it at the Feb. 7 BOS meeting.

Board of Selectmen meetings are available for public viewing live on Zoom or by recorded video on the town website.


One reply on “First Selectwoman’s Advance Notice to Residents: No New Cost Savings to Offset Budget Increases for FY’23”

  1. Issuing debt via a bond offering to build any Wilton public building is something I would never support. It signifies a lack of fiscal responsibility.

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