Should Wilton build more turf sport fields? Should more cell phone towers be built on town owned land? Should Wilton adjust how it approaches where in town sewer service should be allowed?

These are vital questions that the town will consider as part of the Wilton 2029 Plan of Conservation and Development process–and your answers to those questions are too important to be squandered. Input of opinion is needed from as many residents as possible. The next POCD Public Workshop will focus discussion on Community Facilities and Infrastructure, addressing these and many other related points. It’s scheduled for this Thursday, April 19, at 7 p.m. at the Trackside Teen Center (15 Station Rd.).

The town’s fiscal conditions and trends will be reviewed as part of the discussion. Among the highlights (according to a draft of the presentation prepared by consultants Milone & MacBroom:

  • Residential resources make up 74.5% of the grand list (2015). That’s actually better than most of Wilton’s peer towns (New Canaan, ~90%; Ridgefield, ~80%; Redding, ~80%; Weston, 90%+; Westport, ~80%;)
  • Wilton has a greater diversity in its Grand List, compared to most of its peer towns:  14.3% of the Grand List comes from commercial, industrial or utility property. Wilton is the second highest in the peer group after Norwalk.
  • Wilton’s per capita property tax is among the highest in CT; it’s lower than Westport, Weston and New Canaan, but higher than Redding, Ridgefield and Norwalk.
  • Our town’s FY’18 Mill Rate is 27.77, among the highest in the peer group–only Redding and Weston are higher.
  • While Wilton is one of only 17 towns in CT with a Aaa Moody’s bond rating (indicating a strong financial standing), our debt per capita is $5,044, which is the third highest in our peer group (New Canaan and Westport are higher)–and it’s the highest debt level in recent memory, thanks to major capital projects, like the Miller-Driscoll school renovation.

The town has a 5-Year Capital Improvement Program (2018-2022) that includes approximately $34.3 million in bonded requests–some of which have already been approved by town vote:

  • Road Restoration/Paving–$15 million
  • Police Station/Town Hall Campus Renovation–$12.7 million
  • Wilton School Facility Maintenance–$4.6 million
    • Cider Mill roof replacement, parking lot repaving
    • Middlebrook roof replacement, HVAC
  • Parks & Recreation Projects–$1.2 million
    • Lilly Field turf replacement
    • WHS Tennis Courts resurfacing
  • Fire Station 2 Update–$910,000

Areas where other town improvements are being eyed are the Wilton High School running track; new turf fields; Schenck’s Island/Merwin Meadows; Town Hall Campus; Fire Department equipment; and a Wilton Center–Train Station Bridge.

Other fiscal realities have to be considered, of course:

  • The State is facing its own fiscal challenges, which means grant funds to Wilton are likely to be very limited
  • Home values haven’t yet recovered from the recession
  • Wilton’s current bonded debt level is the highest in recent memory
  • The town’s ability to take on more major projects that are not on the capital improvement plan may be limited
  • Wilton has a track record of successfully funding recreation projects privately. There are also successful public/private partnerships.
  • IRS data indicates that income for Wilton’s highest-income households ($200,000+ per year AGI) are still well below pre-recession levels. (That may impact fundraising.)

Other areas that need to be examined:  water service, sewer service, energy efficiency, natural gas lines, and telecommunications.

For people who are unable to attend the workshop, the Planning & Zoning Commission is accepting written comments. Those can be submitted by email or via the Plan of Conservation and Development website, where all information, presentations, comments, schedules, surveys and more are available for viewing.