Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) is getting down to the gritty details of its FY2024 budget proposal, and First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice isn’t exactly pleased with where some things currently stand.
“We aren’t at a point where we can issue a projected mill rate because… there’s some critical components that are still outstanding,” she began.
“But nothing is going in a good direction.”
Vanderslice cited a number of emerging budget challenges including higher-than-planned debt service costs, rising interest rates, a grant cut in the governor’s budget, lower conveyance revenue — all painting a worrisome picture for the FY’24 total budget and outlook for the mill rate.
“As I look at where we’re going to possibly end up, I think we’ll end up in a place that will be unacceptable to the Board of Finance, to the residents, and quite frankly, to all of us [selectmen],” Vanderslice said.
Vanderslice didn’t mention the potential $90.8 million Board of Education budget, though it looms large in the current budget planning environment. She has concluded that the BOS will have to reexamine the $34.7 million BOS budget she initially proposed.
“I think as we are looking at this budget, we have to expect the BOF is going to cut the request that we have asked for,” she told the selectmen.
“We’re already starting to look at those things that could be taken out [of the budget],” she continued. “We need to be realistic. There’s not going to be room in this budget to fund anything [new]. The question is how much of what’s in this budget will we be able to keep.”
Understanding All The Budget Inputs
In the two weeks since Vanderslice initially presented her budget proposal, her fellow selectmen have been poring over details in preparation for their vote on whether to adopt the budget. To expedite the review process, they submitted written questions on the budget to which Vanderslice responded in writing. They plan to discuss the substance of that Q&A at their next meeting.
In recent weeks, the selectmen have also observed detailed presentations on key components of the BOS budget, including the budget requests from the Wilton Library Association on Jan. 24 and the Wilton Fire Department on Feb. 6.
They heard from the leadership of two more departments at the Feb. 15 BOS meeting as the final pieces of the proposed budget come together. Police Department Chief Tom Conlan and DPW Director Frank Smeriglio appeared at the meeting to give the selectmen important insights into their respective budget requests.
Conlon’s comments focused on the following key aspects of the budget:
- The addition of one new officer to focus on traffic safety, in response to residents’ concerns
- Continued focus on the health and safety of all WPD employees, including a new peer support program
- Maintaining Wilton’s reputation as a safe community in which to live and work, including renewed community outreach efforts
- Proper and adequate training
Among the challenges facing the department, Conlon highlighted the ongoing police officer shortage at the local, state and national levels. As noted in the proposed budget document, “Despite proactive measures, hiring is difficult as all municipalities are competing for the same small number of applicants.”
Conlon provided extensive detail on the staffing needs of the department, rationalizing the number of officers needed in a series of charts to demonstrate the thousands of incidents to which the department responds each year and to calculate the FTE required for minimum coverage on a 24/7/365 basis.
Conlon’s entire presentation can be found on the Town website.
“We spend a lot of time talking about grants and projects, but I want to talk about some of the other things we do over the last year,” Smeriglio said.
He reported that in 2022, the department had swept 110 miles road, repaired 87 catch basins, cleaned 135 catch basins, and addressed 618 See-Click-Fix requests, among numerous other routine tasks, such as “call before you dig” markings; mowing along roadways; tree trimming; P&Z application reviews; fat, oil and grease flow testing from restaurants; and more.
Vanderslice emphasized the point Smeriglio was making, calling those works “the bread and butter” of the DPW budget and “the services you have to provide”, while projects paid by grants are “all the extras.”
Smeriglio said the department’s focus for FY’20’24 would include:
- Continued effort to pursue grant awards for bridges, trails and other infrastructure improvements
- 10‐year master plan for municipal and school buildings to address infrastructure replacements and upgrades
- Timely and efficient oversight of repairs and maintenance
- Effective management of highway department resources
- Addressing rising costs and operational challenges at the Transfer Station
Next Steps on the BOS Budget
The BOS budget process will continue on the following schedule, which includes a public hearing. There are opportunities for public comment at designated times during all meetings. Meeting agendas, which contain the Zoom link for remote/hybrid meetings, may be found on the Town website.
- Feb. 21: regular BOS meeting
- Feb. 27: special meeting, if needed for the budget
- March 6: regular BOS meeting
- March 14: presentation of BOS budget to BOF
- March 21: public hearing on BOS budget followed by regular BOS meeting
- April 3: regular BOS meeting to approve bonding referendums
- April 11: presentation of bonding referendums to BOF
More BOS News
- The board voted unanimously to appoint Hollie Rapp as Tax Collector for the Town.
- The board voted unanimously to authorize a proposed contract for long-planned improvements to the Schenck’s Island parking lot. The $198,000 will be paid with remaining ARPA funds. Wilton will have $864,000 in remaining ARPA funds.
All the big tech firms are cutting headcount from 4-7%. Banks and Wall Street will soon follow suit. How do those newly unemployed pay ever increasing taxes?
When does government start living within taxpayer means Instead of usurping cash.
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