One big uncertainty Wilton has faced heading into this week’s municipal budget vote is the uncertainty Hartford is facing in the state’s budget process. In January, Wilton officials began the town’s FY’17 budget work expecting to receive $1,211,734 in state funds in the form of the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant. But by mid-April—very late in the process—news broke that state leaders were considering cutting some or all of that grant, and it created shock waves of concern here, especially as no one knew exactly how much might get cut.
The concern was enough to generate a push for cuts to expected FY’17 operating expenses before Tuesday’s Annual Town Meeting as well as at the Annual Town Meeting, when floor motions were made to reduce both the education and the town’s budget requests. While those motions were defeated, there are still many people worried about what might happen with the state budget.
Late Wednesday night, word came that legislators in the state’s capital may be nearing agreement on a budget that both Democrats and Republicans may find acceptable; moreover, it’s a budget that the Governor is rumored to not find objectionable. In a time period marked by threats from all sides to reject whatever the other sides offer up, that news is encouraging.
What’s more, several sources have said that the current budget up for consideration in Hartford at least has state funds earmarked for Wilton. Late Wednesday night, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice told GOOD Morning Wilton in an email:
“The town belongs to CCM, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. After reviewing the details of the proposed amendments to the FY2017 state budget they informed us that the budget includes the following :
- Education Cost Sharing grant of $665,382
- New Sales Tax Revenue Sharing grant of $380,234″
Vanderslice pointed out that the town never planned for the sales tax revenue sharing grant, so it wasn’t included in the budget as revenue. Together, the state funding would bring in $1,045,616. The net impact of both these proposed grants would mean bringing Wilton’s shortfall down to approximately $165,000, according to Vanderslice—much less than a $1.21 million shortfall.
Checking in late Wednesday night with Wilton’s state representative Gail Lavielle while she was still sitting in the House Chamber as other bills were debated, confirmed Wilton’s proposed ECS numbers. Both Lavielle and Vanderslice cautioned against thinking the grant amounts were a done deal, however; Lavielle hinted that anything could happen in Hartford.
“It’s probably pretty close to whatever will ultimately be in the budget bill that comes up for a vote. I wouldn’t promise, though, that it won’t change at all between now and the time of the vote,” she says.
“I caution until the [grant] amendments are passed, they are subject to change.”
When that vote will be isn’t pinned down either. With the budget documents not even distributed to many of the legislators, it’s likely that the House won’t vote on the budget until early next week—after this Saturday, May 7, the last day Wilton residents can vote on the town’s budget. That means while news about state funding looks much more positive than it did Tuesday evening, nothing is a sure thing yet. And whatever gets through the House still has to pass the State Senate and the Governor.
Voting will continue Saturday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clune Center Auditorium at Wilton High School (395 Danbury Rd.).