This is a challenging year for the budget. We start this process with a tax rate increase of 2.27% if we make no changes. The table below shows how we got to 2.27% from a flat BoS budget and a 1.27% increase in the BoE budget. We issued guidance of 0% and 1.1% for the two budgets. BoS met their target and BoE exceeded theirs by .17% or $137,000.
$ % Increase in expenditures 999,301 0.87% Increase in Debt Service 854,750 0.74% Increase in Charter Authority 18,541 0.02% Decrease in Other Revenues 166,338 0.14% Reduction in drawdown from General Fund 280,060 0.24% Extra GF Reserve 500,000 0.44% 2,818,990 2.46% Increase in Grand List -220,204 -0.19% 2,598,785 2.27%
The main drivers of the mil rate increase and resultant tax increase, other than expenditures (.87%), are the debt service (.74%), the reduced draw down from the general fund (.24%) and finally an extra $500k that we are choosing to leave in the general fund (.44%). These add $2.8m to the tax burden which is only slightly reduced by a lower than expected grand list increase of only .19% which provided an offset of only $220k.
The only items that we, the BoF can control are the three items highlighted in yellow. [Editor’s note: Increase in expenditures, Reduction in drawdown from General Fund, and Extra GF Reserve]
We have held two public hearings, one (BoE budget) very well attended, the other (BoS) less so. We have received more than 80 communications (emails or public comments) from citizens, with slightly more than two to one in support of the BoE budget as is. Good Morning Wilton also ran a poll with over 200 respondents, running 5.6:1 in support. It is important to understand that neither of these are scientific polls and it is dangerous to draw conclusions from tallies. Nonetheless the volume and level of input from Wilton residents has been very high.
A majority of the communications have suggested no cuts at all to the BoE budget. One recommended cuts to the BoE budget as high as $1.65m. Some suggested keeping taxes flat.
This is a challenging year. Debt service will increase again by $1m next year. We cannot increase taxes by more than 2%.
I suggest that we cut $137k from BoE budget
I do not support cuts to the BoS capital budget. Too dangerous.
Reduce General Fund balance by $500k. i.e. discretionary to $1,000k
Is is important to recognize that next year will be a major challenge. With declining school enrollment, next year’s school budget needs to be flat or lower than this year’s. The administration must look very hard at the administrative headcounts as enrollment declines.
We need a compromise.