Wilton’s Board of Selectmen met over the weekend (Saturday, Feb. 3) for a three-hour review of its budget for FY’19. As it stands now, the BOS is requesting an increase of 2.025% over the current year’s (FY’18) budget–in dollars, that amounts to a $672,486 increase, and a total request of $33,881,362.
That increase is slightly higher than the 1.5% increase guidance given to the BOS by the Board of Finance.
However, it is still a work in progress and won’t be final until the BOS votes to formally approve a proposed budget in the coming weeks (see schedule at end of article).
First selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice explained that there were several overall goals as the town departments put their individual budgets together. Those included:
- Reduce and slow cost growth (through continued focus on labor and purchasing efficiencies)
- Maintain the safety of the town and its residents
- Provide the services residents have come to expect
- Collaborate with the Board of Education to reduce the overall town budget
- Explore opportunities to collaborate with neighboring communities
Among the challenges to keeping the budget as low as possible, the most substantial was an unusually high spike in medical claims, which meant unusually high increases in allocation rates. That alone represented a $505,000 increase to $4,072,201, or 1.525% of the total increase overall. That increase in medical benefits is something the BOS will continue to discuss, in advance of the Town Meeting in May.
All other operating cost increases are only 0.5% higher than last year’s budget ($168,000), which includes an increase in workman’s comp; an additional $50,000 requested by the Wilton Library; and an additional $38,000 of overtime requested by the Fire Department–something not yet approved by the Fire Commission.
Vanderslice noted that such a small increase in operating costs was due to a concerted effort by the town’s employees.
“I want to congratulate the town employees for putting together budgets where all other expenses other than medical are at about .5%–if you back out the $50,000 from the Library and the $38,000 that the Fire Department is still making a decision on, we’re only talking about an $80,000 increase from last year’s budget, which I think is pretty commendable, when you don’t look at medical,” she said.
Vanderslice broke out how that 0.5% increase was accomplished:
- Wage savings: town CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz‘s wages are shared equally between the BOS and the BOE
- Eliminating a police officer
- Reducing budgeted DPW overtime
- Creating labor efficiencies
- Not presenting inflated budgets
In addition, Vanderslice said that the town is “reaping the rewards” of changes to benefits achieved through collective bargaining and changes to non-union benefits. As a result, town employees are contributing more to their benefits and have been transitioning to less costly benefits. Furthermore, pension contributions are down because people are no longer being enrolled in those plans.
While she also called it “disappointing” that medical claims represent such a large chunk of the budget increase (1.5% out of 2.025% overall), Vanderslice didn’t want that to overshadow the achievement by town employees and the cooperative relationship with employee unions in order to get to the relatively very small 0.5% portion of the increase–calling that a “huge accomplishment.”
There will be additional discussion about the budget during the BOS regular meeting tonight (Monday, Feb. 5). After that, the schedule of budget discussions is as follows (includes regular meetings of BOS and BOF, as possible budget discussion may occur):
Tuesday, Feb. 13 Board of Finance/Board of Education budget review (Wilton High School Library)
Tuesday, Feb. 20 Board of Selectman regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Wednesday, Feb. 21 Board of Finance/Board of Education budget review, if needed (Wilton High School Library)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 Board of Finance regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, Mar. 5 Board of Selectman regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 Board of Finance/Board of Selectmen budget review (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, Mar. 19 Board of Selectman regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, Mar. 20 Board of Finance regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, Mar. 26 Board of Finance Public Hearing on Board of Education budget (Middlebrook School Auditorium)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 Board of Finance Public Hearing on Board of Selectman budget (Middlebrook School Auditorium)
Monday, April 2 Board of Selectman regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, April 3 Board of Finance Mil Rate meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Wednesday, April 4 Board of Finance Mil Rate meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Thursday, April 5 Board of Finance Mil Rate meeting, if needed (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, April 16 Board of Selectman regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, April 17 Board of Finance regular meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, May 1 Wilton Annual Town Meeting and Vote (Clune Center Auditorium)
Saturday, May 5 Adjourned Vote (Clune Center Auditorium)
UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: The article has been updated to better clarify that the numbers are not yet final and won’t be until the BOS votes to approve a budget to propose to the BOF and the town. In addition, the bullet point about “presenting inflated budgets” has been corrected to read “NOT presenting inflated budgets,” a distinction that was difficult to hear in the audio of the taped meeting.