Selectmen to Bring $19.5 Million in Bonded Capital Projects — Including Police HQ — to Voters in May

Proposals do NOT include elevator replacement that BOF and BOE had hoped would be bondable

Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) held a special meeting last night, Wednesday, April 6.

In addition to hearing a pitch from Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Chair Rick Tomasetti on the idea for an “Amenities Master Plan” for the Town of Wilton, the selectmen also heard from Department of Public Works Director Frank Smeriglio, who presented several options for improved drainage systems and pond dredging in the area of the Wilton High School sports complex. GOOD Morning Wilton will report separately on those two stories.

With the BOS now in the final stretch of the FY2023 budget process, the April 6 meeting also included discussions on the Five-Year Bonded Capital Plan and preparations for the Annual Town Meeting in May.

The March to May

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice began the discussion by acknowledging the Board of Finance‘s recent resolution on the proposed BOS FY2023 budget of $33,943,364, a 1.37% increase over FY2022.

“The [BOF] budget deliberations did not result in a cut to our budget,” Vanderslice said. “So our budget stands. We’re good with that.”

The board then moved on to a discussion of bonding — a subject that has recently garnered the attention of the BOF and the Board of Education (BOE) as a possible source of funding for significant BOE capital expenses on the horizon.

The BOS reviewed the 5-year bonded capital plan, which outlines all of the capital requests anticipated for roads and bridges; municipal buildings; school buildings; and vehicles.

After the discussion, the board voted unanimously to bring the following items to a referendum at the Annual Town Meeting, where voters will not only consider whether to approve the proposed budget but also decide which projects move forward in FY2023:

  • Road restoration (paving): $1,100,000
  • Bridge replacement: $760,137
  • New Police headquarters: $16,400,000
  • DPW vacuum truck: $500,000
  • School District roof replacements: $600,000
  • Middlebrook and Cider Mill HVAC: $100,000 (part of a larger project bonded over three years)

Those projects total $19,460,137 and represent about half of the $40.4 million in projects identified over the next five years.

What About BOE Capital Expenses?

The five-year bonded capital plan discussed by the BOS included two major elevator projects in the Wilton schools (Cider Mill and Middlebrook), each estimated at $275,000, anticipated for FY2024 and FY2025. (Vanderslice noted that while the BOE has not formally requested that bonding yet, she believed based on past discussions that the request would be forthcoming.)

Vanderslice made it clear that the bonding plan for FY2023 does not include other maintenance or repair projects in the schools, such as the Wilton High School elevator slated for repair this summer, previously estimated to cost just over $200,000. Bonding for that elevator and other BOE capital projects is something the BOF has expressed it would like to see as a way of funding those projects over the long term instead of utilizing the BOE’s operating budget.

Vanderslice did leave open the possibility that certain BOE projects might be included in the bonding plan for FY2024-FY2026 — but only if they qualify under the BOS’ explicit bonding policies, which limits the possibility of bonding to projects that cost at least $250,000.

Annual Town Meeting

The Annual Town Meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 3, with voting continued on the budget and bonding referendums on Saturday, May 7.

Vanderslice spoke briefly about how she expects the Annual Town Meeting will unfold.

“So the good news is, we’re going to be in-person,” Vanderslice told the board.

While the meeting will be broadcast to those who wish to view it, “you have to be in-person to participate,” Vanderslice said.

She expects presentation documents will be available for residents to review in advance of the meeting, and possibly some videotaped presentations as well, all in an effort to inform voters before the votes.