Saturday Annual Town Meeting Draws Paltry Crowd, Inspires Zero Public Comment

The only dramatic thing about the 2021 Annual Town Meeting was how undramatic it was.

The meeting meant to be at the heart of Wilton’s democratic municipal government–giving actual voice to each eligible voter–was practically silent, with only approximately 65 people in attendance and, something almost unheard of–no one offering public comment.

Multiple factors may have driven the extremely low turnout:  it was held on Saturday afternoon, May 8 instead of the first Tuesday evening in May, and many people who typically would attend had weekend activities; there’s still lingering COVID-19 uncertainty about being in public spaces indoors; the meeting was live-streamed via ZOOM and recorded so people could watch at their leisure; and voting was completely adjourned until next Saturday, May 15 (at the Clune Center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Less likely, but still possible, is that residents didn’t object to the budget town officials proposed for FY2022, or didn’t worry that they had to attend in case anyone made a motion from the floor to lower what had been proposed.

In all, the meeting lasted only 23 minutes.

Now, it’s up to residents and property owners to vote on whether or not to adopt that proposed budget. Once the budget is adopted, that’s how the town determines how much to tax each property owner in order to fund the budget.

In-person adjourned voting will take place on Saturday, May 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clune Center. Voting by absentee ballot is also available (see below).

Whether or not attendance at the ATM is any indicator of how the vote will go, we’ll explain what’s at stake one more time when voting does happen this Saturday.

Question 1:  The Budget
  • Elected Town officials have proposed a FY’22 operating budget of $128,788,862 to run the town and the schools for FY2022. That’s a 1.21% increase ($1.5 million) over FY’21. (The presentations are available to review online.) (Board of Finance PowerPoint Presentation)
  • The total FY’22 amount that needs to be raised through a levy is $119,717,923, a 2.84% increase ($3,311,539) from FY’21.
  • The proposed FY’22 mill rate is 27.8685, reflecting a 1.48% increase over FY’21.
  • You’ll have three options to consider on the budget vote:
      • YES, I approve the proposed budget
      • NO, the budget is TOO HIGH
      • NO, the budget is TOO LOW
  • As always, the town needs to reach a 15% voter turnout threshold in order for the votes to qualify. Otherwise, with less than a 15% voter turnout, the budget automatically passes, no matter what votes are cast.

(For a detailed look at how the budget was set, read our prior coverage.)

Question 2-6:  Bonding Referendums
  • There are five bonding resolutions to consider–the five projects for which the town would like to borrow money. (Full explanations of the five projects are available online):
      • $1,500,000 for road restoration (paving)
      • $350,000 for replacement of the Middlebrook tennis courts
      • $600,000 for the School District roof replacement program
      • $1,450,000 for a new Fire Department Ariel Truck
      • $583,000 for the bridge replacement program
  • The bonding referendums require no minimum voter turnout and will pass or fail based on whatever the actual YES or NO vote is.

Vote IN-PERSON or ABSENTEE

Only Town of Wilton electors (i.e. registered voters) and property owners are entitled to vote. People who aren’t registered to vote in Wilton (with the exception of people who own property in Wilton but reside elsewhere), or non-US citizen Wilton property owners–are not eligible to vote.

In-person adjourned voting will take place on Saturday, May 15 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clune Center (395 Danbury Rd.).

To vote by absentee ballot, you’ll need to fill out an application first (available on the CT Secretary of State website). Applications can either be mailed to the Town Clerk (238 Danbury Rd., Wilton), placed in the dropbox in the vestibule at the back of Town Hall, or delivered by hand to the Town Clerk after emailing or calling 203.563.0106 ahead.

Absentee ballots will be available on Monday, May 10. When filling out the application, indicate whether the ballot should be mailed or if you will pick up the ballot from the Town Clerk’s Office.

Completed absentee ballots can be dropped in the secure ballot box outside Police Headquarters (240 Danbury Rd.) up until 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 or mailed to the Town Clerk’s office. Mailed ballots must be received by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14.

GOOD Morning Wilton will bring you the results of the vote LIVE on Saturday, May 15.

1 COMMENT

  1. Grateful to everyone for keeping this short and simple; it’s regrettable that the governor / GA didn’t waive these meetings altogether as they did last year, but given the legal requirement that the meeting take place, we got through it as quickly and safely as possible.

    That being said, the fact that it would have been theoretically possible for a few dozen people to show up + take a hatchet to the town budget is still worrisome, and I hope it might start a conversation about possible charter reforms or other ways we might ensure that the democratic prerogatives of the Town Meeting are actually exercised democratically and not limited only to those who are able to show up in person.

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