Due to rising waste disposal costs and declining revenue for the town, Wilton residents will need to pay a $40 annual fee for a dumping permit if they want to use the town’s transfer station starting July 1.
“We’re in a position where push has come to shove,” Town administrator Matthew Knickerbocker said, citing the rising costs of carting off the waste.
“The public that uses the transfer station is not gonna like this very much (but) the choice that we have is either charge for the permits and get some revenue … or charge more for municipal waste when you drop it off.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved re-implementing a permit fee, having done away with it years ago.
“The town discontinued stickers some time ago,” Knickerbocker said.
“That was at a time when most municipalities made profit actually selling the recyclable materials,” he said. “Those days are long gone … We have to pay to make the stuff go away.”
Town officials anticipate bringing in $54,000 next year in revenue with the permits. They estimate that 1,800 permits will be sold, including an estimated 450 to seniors at a reduced rate of $20 each.
Residents will be able to get a second permit for an additional vehicle for $20.
Currently, residents pay $4.50 per ticket to dump a 32-gallon bag, with larger items requiring more tickets.
“We’ve been struggling with this for eight years while I’ve been in office,” First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said. “The costs just keep rising and as much as there is awareness about waste, still a lot of this same waste is being generated and it’s really expensive,” she said.
People leaving food waste or recycling will also be required to purchase a permit for use of the transfer station.
“One way or another, we have to address the revenue shortfall in some kind of a mechanism,” Knickerbocker said.
Taking a Pause on Cutting Library’s Budget
Meanwhile, the BOS postponed a proposed reduction of $35,000 to Wilton Library’s 2024 budget request, hoping the money could be saved through utility costs.
The reduction request had resulted from the Town Meeting approval of the FY’24 budget and the need to find savings following the Board of Finance’s $200,000 reduction to the town’s operating budget.
“We had what we thought was a tight budget,” Vanderslice said. “The Board of Finance reduced it by $200,000 with no rationale.”
“It felt like they were reducing it because they reduced the Board of Ed[ucation] budget,” she added.
Rob Sanders, president of the library’s board of trustees, told the BOS that a reduction would represent a challenge to the library, which is trying to get its staffing back up to 2019 levels, with people currently handling two jobs at once in some cases.
“It slows us down,” he said of the potential cut. “It hurts us.”
Sanders said the current utility costs top $200,000. “It’s substantial,” he said.
Vanderslice raised the question of whether the library could be put under the town’s utility umbrella, which could potentially save it 14%-24% of its electricity costs.
“I’ll work with the energy consultant and see if we can give you a number to work with,” Knickerbocker said.
Vanderslice, who previously served on the library’s board, said she would hate having to reduce its funding.
But she noted that, unlike the town, the library has the ability to fundraise for more.
Sanders noted the help they’ve already received in meeting their needs.
“The Wilton community is very generous in its support of the library,” he said.
In other news, the BOS voted unanimously to re-hire the firm CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) to handle the town’s account auditing over the next three years — in part because it was the only group to respond to the town’s Request for a Quote.
“We issued the RFQ at the beginning of April (and) we only had one respondent,” Wilton CFO Dawn Norton explained.
She said costs are going up considerably as firms can’t find staff to meet their needs, with CLA increasing its rate by more than 10%.
“It’s a huge issue,” Vanderslice, a former certified public accountant, said. “We’ve had the issue two years in a row, that their lack of staffing has delayed the audit.”
“There aren’t very many firms anymore that want to do municipalities … It’s an issue for all of us,” she added.
She said that accounting firms can make more money working with corporations.
“It’s a nationwide problem,” Knickerbocker said, noting that local governments all over are struggling with the problem because the audits are generally state or federal requirements. “It’s growing into a kind of national crisis for local governments.”
The BoS and BoE budgets were both “tight budgets”, neither one is more virtuous than the other.
I’m fully prepared to believe that the BoF only reduced the BoS budget because they were also reducing the BoE one and they felt like they had to cut the BoS budget for appearances’ sake, but the BoF’s commitment to cutting school budgets is deep and longstanding and has little to do with thriftiness.
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