Tuesday, May 1–Bookmark this link, because GOOD Morning Wilton will be live blogging this evening’s Annual Town Meeting, from the Clune Center starting at 7:30 p.m..
Please DON’T follow along.
Instead, it’s much more important to come to tonight’s meeting, the most important municipal meeting of the year. Wilton’s form of government lets you add your voice to the meeting, and help shape the budget. The FY’19 budget numbers you’ll eventually vote on are set tonight, which determines how much tax you’ll pay. Of course if you absolutely can’t make it in person, our live blog is a great option to follow along live. But we’d rather you come to the meeting in person instead. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to vote on a budget set by other people.
What’s been proposed for the FY’19 budget by the Board of Education ($81,876,563 or a 1.62% increase over FY’18) and the Board of Selectmen ($33,501,999 or a 0.88% increase over FY’18) may not be what voters will eventually consider.
Motions can be–and will be–made to reduce the budget, and arguments for and against lowering the budget only can be done in person tonight at the meeting. Voting will start after the meeting concludes, and continue on Saturday. But if you don’t attend tonight, by the time you go to vote Saturday, you’ll be voting on what gets decided tonight. Both are important, but wouldn’t it be great if all the seats are filled at tonight’s meeting–and if YOU add your voice to the very important process.
Either way, see you tonight at 7:30 p.m.!
7:20 p.m.: auditorium is open and slowly filling up…
7:30 p.m. Lynne Vanderslice First selectwoman opens, nominates Scott Lawrence to be moderator, and the town votes to approve.
Lawrence appoints the parliamentarian, Town Counsel Mario Coppola.
Town clerk Lori Kaback Reads the Town Call
Coppola introduces the resolutions. He’s a partner of Ira Bloom.
This means if any cuts are proposed, then ALL cuts must be proposed at the same time, then they all get discussed.
Rules for things you CANNOT do:
Rules for things you CAN do:
You CAN vote by absentee ballot:
7:45 PM Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser begins his presentation.
He introduces the other board members: Vice Chairman Walter Kress, Peter Balderston, John Kalamarides and Stewart Koenigsberg. Richard Creeth is unable to attend tonight’s meeting.
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Highlights:
- Total Funds Required is up 2.02 %
- The Net Grand List is up 51 basis points – about double last year’s increase
- Subtracting 51 from 202, the Proposed Mill Rate is up 1.51% from last year
- The Board of Selectmen’s budget is up only 0.88%, significantly under our budget guidance of 1.5%
- The Board of Ed budget is up by 1.62% over last year.
- Debt Service is down by 7.2%, the first decline in debt service in years as maturing bonds will exceed new required bonding
- Wilton’s Pension Plan is well-funded at 96% of expected liabilities.
- General Fund Reserves are conservatively set at 10% of the Operating Budget, approximately $12.8 million
- Last February, Moody’s reaffirmed Wilton’s Aaa rating, ensuring that Wilton receives the lowest possible borrowing cost for its bonds
Comparing this budget to last year, look at the top blue line to see that Total Operating Expenses are up by only $759,000.(approximately .60% increase over last year).
If we could stop there, we would be in great shape!
However, we experienced a reduction in Non-Tax Revenue of $486,000, entirely due to a decline in State Municipal Aid, a topic I will cover later.
We also increased Tax Relief for the Elderly & Disabled by $50,000, the first increase in many years.
Finally, we have approximately $1.1 million dollars less in excess reserves to apply this year due to not having a windfall event like we had two years ago
So adding the effect of these three non-operating items to the moderate operating expense increase, the Total Funds required from Property Taxes rose by $2.4 million dollars, a 2.02% increase over last year.
After taking into account almost $600,000 of additional revenue from Grand List growth, that leaves an additional $1.8 million over last year’s budget to be funded by a 1.51% increase in the Mill Rate
Here are two pie charts for total expenses and total revenues
On the left: Wilton’s spending is primarily in three areas:
- Spending on Education is two-thirds of the budget
- Municipal Services are a quarter of the budget
- Debt Service is about 9% of the budget.
At 1.0% each are Tax Relief and Charter Authority, which is a contingency amount for unanticipated expenses
On the Revenue side, Taxing the Grand List provides 94% of our revenue with smaller contributions from Other Non-Tax Revenues and a drawdown of Reserves in excess of the 10% minimum reserve level.
Next, let’s turn to the Grand List, the source of most of the Town’s revenues. It is currently $4.3 Billion and can be divided into three main groups
- Residential properties, mostly single-family homes. 75%
- Commercial Properties 15%
- personal property is the remaining 9% (Autos, Boats, RVs and business property, etc.)
The Budget just presented is what we expect over the coming year if all goes to plan.
Other potential risks to our financial condition and longer term financial obligations that we monitor closely:
- Reliance on State Aid in our budget.
- Current Debt Obligations and potential future capital projects requiring bonding
- Pension Plan Obligations and exposure
- Operating Budget Cost Controls and Reserves.
Uuntil recently, Wilton received approximately $2.5 million each year in educational and municipal aid from the State.
Unfortunately, as the State’s fiscal situation deteriorated, the State cut back educational and municipal aid to Wilton so that we now have only $600,000 in our Fiscal Year 2019 budget that we might expect from the State.
Even if we receive this reduced amount, it means that Wilton has absorbed a reduction of nearly $2 million annually of state aid over the past two years.
That shortfall from the State means that your taxes have gone up $2 million annually just to cover this cutback of municipal aid from the state.
And this last $600,000 might be eliminated in the coming year as well. A State Appropriations committee recommended a budget resolution that would, among other things, “Zero out” all municipal aid for 33 Affluent towns, with Wilton likely being on that list.
The budget resolution didn’t pass this time but the process is hardly over. We will monitor this closely but, even if municipal aid is cut, we have our Charter Authority contingency account of $1.28 million that could cover this further loss of municipal aid.
After three years of adding to the Town’s Long-term debt to finance the Miller-Driscoll redevelopment, we finally are seeing the first reduction of debt service in many years.
This graph shows the projection of existing debt service for the next 27 years. The Blue Bars are the debt service attributable to bonds issued and currently outstanding. It goes down in future years as bonds mature and debt service payments end for those matured bonds.
The other colors stacked on the blue bars represent the Five Year Capital Plan which includes the Police Station renovation and other Capital Projects generally to make needed repairs to existing school and municipal buildings. It is important to note that these future projects have NOT been approved by the Town yet and represent only placeholders so we can evaluate potential future debt service. Note that this potential additional bonding is relatively small in relation to existing debt.
Notice the dotted red line at the $2.4 million level of debt service. The amount between zero to this dotted red line represents the approximate amount of annual debt service for the bonds issued to fund the Miller Driscoll project. Now that the project is complete, we know that only $36.3 million of bonds were issued against the original $50 million authorization.
8PM the auditorium is filling up, and people continue to come in
Another area of potential financial exposure is the unfunded portion of the Wilton Pension Plan. As recently as seven years ago, our Pension Fund could only cover 84% of our pension plan commitments.
Using a simple and smart “catch-up” formula suggested by Dick Dubow, former Pension Fund Trustee, we added small additional amounts to our annual pension contributions to narrow the unfunded gap.
You can see the impact as the funded ratio rose from 84% in 2011 to over 96% for the past two years, leaving a small gap of approximately $4 million of unfunded liability today.
This amount of financial exposure is easily manageable.
One of the major ways we reduce budget risk, or uncertainty, is in a detailed budgeting process followed by tight operational management.
Each budget is reviewed multiple times by independent boards on its way to the Annual Town Meeting for your vote.
Once approved by the Town, the budgeted amounts are “locked in” and all three Boards monitor actual spending to budget through the year to ensure we don’t have “negative surprises”.
Because of this detailed review process, Board of Ed and Board of Selectmen budget cost overruns are rare. In fact, the last cost overrun was 17 years ago in 2001 where we had an unexpected increase in major health care claims at the Board of Ed.
However, if we did face an unexpected budget bust, Wilton is well reserved to handle it.
- First, we have the Charter Authority contingency account, which is 1% of the budget or $1.28 million. Due to tight budgeting and operational management, we haven’t tapped into this contingency account for many years.
- Next we maintain a MINIMUM of 10% of our operating budget in General Fund Reserves. These reserves are currently $12.8 Million dollars. While this is potentially available for emergency use, we have never tapped into it since it is the reserve level we have agreed with Moody’s to maintain in order to qualify for our Triple-A rating.
- We also have a Medical Fund that currently has $3.3 million, This reserve was set up in 2001 to handle unanticipated health care claims. Combined, we believe Wilton is well-protected should any major financial problem arise.
This graph shows the mill rate increases over the past five years, including the proposed FY19 budget.
The gold columns represent the mill rate increase each year. The blue diagonal crosshatching above these represent budget cuts in that year that reduced the original budget requests to the amount of mill rate increase that eventually was approved by the Town.
For example, look at the far right bar representing the current budget. The BOE and BOS Budget Requests would have led to a Mill Rate increase of 1.97% The Board of Finance reduced the Board of Ed budget this year, which resulted in the reduction to an overall 1.51% mill rate increase being presented to you this evening.
You can see that the Board of Finance has cut the submitted budgets in four of the past five years, especially on the tallest bars representing the largest requested increases in spending over the prior year. The Board of Selectmen budget was cut in 2014, 2016 and last year. The Board of Ed budget was cut two years ago and this year.
Despite those cuts, the Board of Finance has approved 99.78% of BOE Requests and 99.72% of BOS Requests in the past five years. This is due to the fact that both the Board of Ed and the Board of Selectmen respect the budget guidance we give and are aware that submitted budgets wide of the guidance are quite likely to be reduced by the Board of Finance.
Finally, the red line shows the five year average annual mill rate increase of 1.64%, slightly higher than CPI Inflation of 1.44% annually over the same five year period.
In conclusion, the Board of Finance recommends a Fiscal Year 19 Operating budget of $127.6 million that corresponds to a mill rate of 28.1875.
This is an increase of 1.51% over last year’s mill rate.
In addition the Board of Finance recommends the three capital bonding projects. All three received unanimous approval by our Board.
- $3 million for Road Restoration
- $700,000 for Lilly Field Turf replacement
- $400,000 for asphalt repair, repaving and lighting for the BOE Bus Barn
8:05 p.m. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice begins her presentation
“BOS and Town Departments are focused on providing Quality Services at the lowest possible cost.”
Our actual results have all been under budget.
- $1 million in 2016
- $450 thousand in 2017
- $500 thousand in 2018
Much of that savings was employee related as we continued to evaluate every vacancy.
Some positions were ultimately filled resulting in one time savings; Others were permanently eliminated resulting in a permanent reduction in costs.
FY19 Proposed Budget Cost-saving initiatives:
· 3 positions (2 Town + 1 BOE) now consolidated into ONE director of Public Works and Facilities
· Town and BOE now share a CFO
· 1 police officer eliminated with expected retirement
· Favorable changes thanks to contract negotiations and new changes for non-union employees
· Reduced Trackside Teen Center grant (working toward financial independence)
· Reduced post-retirement benefits thanks to strong investments
Other cost savings/avoidance:
- Solar panels on school roofs mean lower energy costs for BOE, at NO COST to town
- Library grant restructuring: Grants made by the town to the Wilton Library, funded by property taxes–which are no longer tax deductible, thus increasing the net cost to taxpayers. We have structured the additional $25,000 grant to the library as a challenge grant to incentivize deductible contributions from residents versus a $50,000 increase in the non-deductible (from taxes) grant.
- “Town’s Doors are always open to individuals and developers interested in investing in Wilton. We are seeing significant activity and interest in the Rte. 7 corridor along existing sewer lines. To the extent we can grow the commercial grand list, the burden is reduced for residents.
- Identifying and encouraging new funding sources for amenities (e.g. Stadium Advertising)
We recognize areas where we must increase investments.
- Additional social work hours
- Additional spending on Seniors including programming funding and an increase in elderly tax relief
- Studies for amenity improvements (through donations, including Schenck’s Island and Stadium Track)
These initiatives come together in the $33.5 MILLION dollar Fiscal year 2019 budget
- $293,000 MORE than the current budget (.883% increase)
- An AVERAGE INCREASE in the Board of Selectmen budget of 1.1% for the LAST THREE YEARS. This rate of increase was achieved DESPITE THE FACT THAT THERE HAS BEEN NO REDUCTION IN SERVICES PROVIDED.
COSTS BROKEN DOWN BY MAJOR CATEGORIES
- WAGES AND EMPLOYEE BENEFITS: almost 65% of costs. This despite wage increases ranging from 2-2.25%, wages were held at 0.6% increase due to position eliminations
- Despite increases in medical costs of almost 8%, benefits were held to a 1.0% increase. Medical benefits are a significant driver of cost increases. WE ARE CONTINUING TO ADDRESS.
- Workman’s comp and insurance also being addressed. WORKMAN’S COMP IS RELATED TO POLICE, FIRE AND DPW PERSONAL. Historically DPW employees have gotten little training to avoid injuries, that is now changing.
- ALL OTHER COSTS ARE RELATIVELY FLAT.
AS PREVIOUSLY NOTED WE HAVE ELIMINATED POSITIONS. (net of 3 in town departments)
WORKING TOGETHER with the BOE has allowed the BOE to eliminate 1.5 positions
THE MID-YEAR REDUCTION of a police officer means another 1/2 person planned reduction in 2020
BEYOND THE BUDGET, WE HAVE BEEN Focused ON OTHER INITIATVES to IMPROVE the QUALITY OF LIFE for residents,
INCLUDING TOOLS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE TOWN AND THE RESIDENTS.
I HOPE YOU ALL HAVE SIGNED UP FOR SEECLICKFIX TO REPORT ISSUES TO HELP US MORE EFFICIENTLY ADDRESS THEM.
WE ARE WORKING WITH TROUT UNLIMITED AND OTHER GROUPS TO ENSURE THE HEALTH AND ACCESSIBILITY OF THE NORWALK RIVER.
WE ARE WORKING WITH EVERSOURCE TO IMPROVE THEIR PERFORMANCE AND COMMUNICATION,
WITH THE STATE TO IMPROVE ROUTE 7,
WITH THE Y AND THE NRVT TO ASSIST THEM WTH THEIR EXPANSION
AND WITH THE YOUTH SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS TO ADDRESS THEIR NEEDS.
This is just sample of the initiatives
WE ARE MINDFUL OF THE CURRENT FINANCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND THE STRESS THAT IT HAS CREATED FOR RESIDENTS.
Whether THE STATE’S DEFICITS AND UNFUNDED LIABILITIES WHICH ARE PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE STATE TO PUSH MORE AND MORE COST DOWN TO WILTON AND OTHER TOWNS.
That HIGH INCOME RESIDENTS THROUGHOUT FAIRFIELD COUNTY ARE LEAVING THE STATE FOR NO INCOME TAX STATES AND WARMER CLIMATES.
LOWER DEMAND FOR SINGLE FAMILY HOMES,
And the fact that EIGHT YEARS AFTER THE RECESSION, THE 2015 AVERAGE INCOME FOR WILTON RESIDENTS HAS NOT GROWN,
WITH THE HIGHER END SEEING A DECREASE OF ALMOST 17 PERCENT IN ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME.
PROPERTY TAXES ARE JUST ONE COMPONENT OF A SITUATION WHICH IS FAR MORE COMPLEX.
BUT Please BE ASSURED THAT THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN TAKES SERIOUSLY OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HELP NAVIGATE THE TOWN THROUGH THESE TIMES OF DIFFICULTY AND CHANGE.
OUR BUDGET IS A REFLECTION OF THAT SERIOUSNESS. THANK YOU.
8:10 Christine Finkelstein BOE presents
BOE chair Christine Finkelstein opens, “I have the honor of presenting the 2018-19 Wilton Public Schools operating budget, as approved unanimously by the Board of Education.
Introduces other BOE members: vice chair Laura Schwemm, secretary Lory Rothstein, Glenn Hemmerle, Gretchen Jeanes and Debbie Low
Finkelstein alludes to the BOF and other critics who say the schools should be more efficient and run things like a business or a corporation.
“This year Wilton Public Schools has 4,058 students, or “customers.”
“No two customers are the same, and each is entitled to the highest levels of service and our premium product line.
“Unlike other businesses, there is zero margin for error when running a school system. A child only goes through school once—we have only one chance to do right by them.
Wilton has always taken this responsibility to heart.
Wilton taxpayers have a long and proud tradition of supporting our schools.
Together, we as a community have built the Wilton Public School system into one of the finest in the state.
We set the bar high in our expectations. Many residents tonight will tell us that they moved here because of our schools. It’s why I moved here and why most — maybe even all of our BOE members — moved here, or in Laura Schwemm’s case, why she chose to return.
This tradition of excellence is alive and well in each of our schools.
Examples of how we continue Wilton’s proud history, and continue to raise the bar:
- Wilton High School was 1 of only 5 high schools in CT named a 2017 School of Distinction by the CT Dept. of Education.
- 2018 com rankings
- Wilton Public Schools #5 best school district in CT
- Wilton High School #6 best public high school
- Wilton teachers #4 best in the state
- Wilton High School Athletic Dept. #6 best
WHS Class of 2017
- 6 national merit semi-finalists and 18 commended students.
- One 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar
- One 2017 CT Governor’s Scholar.
- Average ACT 27 (national mean 21.3)
- Average SAT score 1227 (national mean 103)
SAT scores are “highly competitive” vs. our district reference group (DRG-A)
Last year 417 students, in 24 AP and 6 Early College Experience courses.
Students taking end-of-year AP exams:
- 87% scored a 3 or better
- 152 AP scholars.
And 47% of Class of 2017 accepted to “Most Competitive/Highly Competitive Schools” (Barron’s).
Class of 2018 is poised to continue that strong record of accomplishment, based on their admissions so far.
Class of 2018: 38 signed letters of intent to compete in NCAA sports
This high level of achievement is also seen in our lower schools.
- Nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School
- #3 in CT student performance on Science CMT
- #3 in our DRG on English Language Arts SBAC scores
Cider Mill and “our beautiful new Miller-Driscoll” are each recognized by the state Department of Education for academic achievement.
“I should note that one of my favorite things about our schools is the new “MD TV” that airs every morning at Miller Driscoll. Student reporters and commentators report on that day’s important news, which includes a daily shout out to students celebrating birthdays. I watched yesterday and learned it was National Raisin Day.
It’s important to reflect on this outstanding achievement for two reasons.
- It’s important to celebrate our students and the hard work that goes into these accomplishments.
- But it’s also important for us as a community to recognize all the ways that our investments are returned. Your investment is producing solid, measurable results.
Proposed 2018-19 budget.
Our budget calls for $81,876,563. This represents a 1.62% increase over existing spending levels, and our fourth consecutive lean budget.
This figure also reflects a $500,000 reduction already imposed by the Board of Finance.
2017-2018: budget flat, no increase
2016-17: budget increased by 0.77%
2015-2016: budget increased by 1.98%
This amounts to an average increase of 1.43%.
By comparison, the average for our surrounding communities is 2.69%.
This year’s 1.62% budget increase includes a few assumptions:
- Teacher salaries increase: 06%
- Administrator salaries increase: 025%
- Custodial salaries increase: 2%
- Insurance costs increase: 6%
- Transportation costs increase: 2%
- Enrollment will decline by 36 students, or 1.0%
- Next year’s rate of inflation: 5%
“So to be clear,
- Contracted labor costs will increase by more than 3%.
- The rate of inflation will tick up to 2.5%.
- And our budget calls for a 1.62% increase.
This is a very lean budget.
Enrollment is projected to decrease by 36 students, or 1.0%.
We project PreK-12 enrollment of 4,022 students, and we expect that gradual rate of decline to continue for the next few years.
With 36 fewer students next year, where will those reductions take place?
“While it would certainly be helpful from a budget standpoint if those 36 students were all the same grade level, so we could easily eliminate a couple of class units, unfortunately, this is not the case. Instead, as we see, the reductions are spread across the schools, with a slight pick up at Middlebrook.
This means that next year’s 1.0% decrease in enrollment will not enable any significant staffing reduction. I should also point out, that regardless of how many students we enroll, certain fixed costs remain the same including funds required to turn on the heat and lights.
Cost containment strategies implemented across the district
- Most bargaining unit members now enrolled in a new high deductible health plan.
- Outsourced technology functions, which allows us to more efficiently control equipment leasing and replacement costs.
- Pursue synergies with the Town wherever it makes sense (eliminated 2 positions–facilities director and finance director)
- Good progress in managing special education costs.
- Diagnosing learning issues at an earlier age,
- Directing high-quality reading intervention at early elementary level
- Streamlining the process for the 100s of parent/teacher meetings – called PPTs – each year.
We continue to closely monitor staffing levels to ensure we have the exact number of personnel required to run our schools.
This budget: overall staffing level of 568.89, which is down slightly against our current staffing level of 570.84.
“I recognize some in our community have asked why staffing has not declined in proportion with – if not faster than – the rate of enrollment decline. Why, for example, if enrollment has fallen by almost 7% since 2013, has staffing only decreased 3%?”
“Education doesn’t work that way. We are dealing with living, breathing students. Some think corporate staffing models are easily transferrable to a school system, but that just is not the case.
We must adapt staffing to meet the specific needs of students.
More anxiety and mental health issues even at Miller-Driscoll; America’s stressed out high school students, opioid addiction or alcohol abuse, the breakdown of families…
Wilton is not immune to this.
“Wilton is certainly not unique in facing these challenges, but we as a community must understand that we are making these investments, and that in many instances, it has prevented staffing reductions.”
Education is changing. And good education is expensive.
Our spending request in perspective/compared with our DRG-A neighbors.
“We fall well below every other DRG-A district with regard to annual spending increases.”
This is not necessarily a contest I’d like to win. There is no prize for failing to invest in your schools.
And as we see here, Wilton is #6 out of 8 districts in cost-per-pupil spending.
So, with that, I hope I have given you a good overview of both the tremendous return on investment our community is getting on its education dollars, along with some good insight as to where our 2018-19 budget will be spent.
“As we meet here this evening in the Clune Center, I am reminded of the years I spent working with Superintendent David Clune. I was president of the Miller PTA, and an important part of our work always centered on trying to increase voter participation in the town meeting. I remember Dr. Clune repeating two key points: “We can’t afford not to invest in our schools, and our kids are worth it.”
That was almost 20 years ago, and the message holds true today. We must invest in our schools, and our students are most certainly worth a 1.62% increase in spending.
“I urge you to give your support to this budget.”
“We all know how important our schools are to our community, and we don’t want to reach the point where people no longer stand up at town meetings and say, ‘I moved here for the schools.’”
DISCUSSION AND MOTIONS FROM THE FLOOR BEGIN
Alex Ruskewich: Moves to cut proposed BOE budget reduced by 1.62% to result in a flat budget–reduce by $1,306,000 to $0.0 dollar increase. Wilton has been spending beyond its means, getting into a dramatic situation. Housing market per Zillow is cold, very cold. 7 foreclosures, 30 pre-foreclosures. Wilton is projected to significantly lose enrollment by 2020, 1,500 less people in the town per CT state demographers, “official state analysis.”
The BOE’s portion has increased from 60.9% to 68% 2004-2016, crowding out other needs. Per capita debt is 6th highest in CT, 2nd in the DRG.
The mil rate increase is damaging our town.
Comparing to Westport: 2004 same mil rate; 2016 Wilton increased by 33.5%, Westport reduced by 10%. Westport also has good schools but can manage spending to be done better and don’t get themselves into the same financial situation. If we continue, we project by 2025, that there will be 2,000 less potential students in Wilton.
This reduction in population and students is not limited to Wilton, it’s most towns. 50 out of 167 are expected to lose student population.
The motion has been seconded.
Because of the “filling in the blanks,” resolution, other cuts or proposals need to be made at the same time.
- one proposed 0.0% cut
- another proposal for $1 cut
nominations for amounts are closed
NOW DISCUSSION STARTS
Alex Ruskewich approaches again:
The state will not help Wilton. All towns are facing reduction in population. When we reduce by 1,500 people that will impact our housing. Where will those houses go when no one will fill them? The school is only projecting a small amount this year. The students in Kindergarten moving up, vs. the high school leaving–300 in high school, the people moving up are in the 200s. We’re bound to have a reduction in population.
Cynthia Faire: If we want to maintain the value of our homes, we need to maintain the value of our schools. Health care costs have increased 8%. This is an extremely lean budget. If I could I’d propose an increase. They’re trying to be fiscally responsible. Let’s take care of our students. The costs increase, so that’s where the budget increases come from. Health care costs is a national thing. Where we live, the increases are coming from costs increases. If you pay attention, they’re decreasing as much as they can, the increases are societal.
Virginia Benin: Point of order–my understanding of Robert’s Rules, an amendment to the proposal is voted first, the proposal is denied.
Scott Lawrence: He’s clarifying…our “filling in the blanks” takes care of that…
Virginia Benin: I’ve been here 45 years. Every once in a while we have this doom and gloom concept of what will happen–people are leaving, unhappy, no one wants taxes to go up, and we have a sense that somehow it’s the dollars that make the difference because they’re too much. I would argue, when you do away with the things that make this town what it has been and should be for the future–schools, fields, police, the things that make up the budget–when you diminish them to a level that is not correct in providing quality service, you diminish th town. That will be very sad. I no longer have kids in the school, but somebody paid for my kids. They fought over that, but they provided my kids with superb educations. We owe the town and ourselves to do the same thing today.
[unclear]: if our school budget were not out of control, other people could stay.
Eric Fanwick: Wants to challenge Alex Ruskewich numbers. State DOT has us going up over 20,000. Our consultants say the DOT has historically been more accurate. That repudiates the assertion that we need to cut the budget based on population.
Michael Graupner: It would be a mistake to write off what Alex is trying to tell the town. You can disagree with his stats, but there is a reality what he is telling the town. Wilton is not a nice homogeneous town of young families; there is a sizable population of people who came here 30, 50 year ago. In my case, and in other cases, we didn’t move to Wilton for the schools, we moved to Wilton in the late 60s because it was the only place we could afford. Wilton you could afford, that’s why people came here, even though schools were just fine. I was in Vietnam, came here in 1976, 40 years or so. year in , year out there are older people on fixed incomes who cannot afford what you’re doing year in , year out. Also , remind everyone if the budget is not enough and their kids are not getting, everyone can whip out their checkbook and write a check. Not taxes, it’s a contribution, if the schools need more, do it and do it for your own kids.
Paul Polishan: The shortfall in income from CT, a question: we’re the 6th highest per capita in state income taxes, is there anyone in town to see that we get money back? It’s a robin hood tax, is there someone who is lobbying for us?
Lynne Vanderslice answer: Gail Lavielle, Toni Boucher.
Paul: Falling on deaf ears.
Paul Webster: Raised in Wilton, Live here, teach here, I am also a realtor. People are Wilton’s greatest asset. We have some assets, but not much that compete (e.g. beach, pools, etc.) I’ve seen clients drawn elsewhere. Our school is our greatest draw, and we must continue to invest, or our
The BoF keeps chopping away like it’s 2008 even though the we are maxed out and exhausted. Our kids deserve better. the budget is bare bones and we can’t take any more. I support this budget.
Gail Moskow: We moved here in 1970, because of the excellent schools. 40 years later, half a dozen new families with young children moved to our neighborhood the most important thing a community can provide is an excellent education–teachers, administrators, social workers, coaches, music directors, the people who work with our children. The teachers are the most important. We worked for IBM and didn’t make a difference in our children’s lives. When we volunteered in the schools we saw the people who made a difference. Scores, go up and down, rankings go up and down, like the stock market. Wilton still has superior schools. We provide an outstanding education for our children. When we moved here there were seniors who paid taxes gladly. it’s our turn now we are more than happy to pay now. Life goes full circle it is our turn now. Please support the BOE budget.
[Unclear] It’s sad in a year when Wilton is saddled with additional taxes, both Dems and GOP is on spending binge. I appreciate the effort by the BOS. Take a minute to understand the consistent overspending without accountability. Don’t say the town doesn’t spend on the children. Every street has multiple homes on the market. The reality is what is being trimmed is a wish list, no real cuts are happening. As soon as people have kids graduate, they leave. This town is one trick pony. The NRVT is great, there are other things we can be doing. This is not about the stock market, it’s about the reality of the market. You could increase the budget in Boston or Silicon Valley where jobs are being created, but leaders should be looking for the iceberg. We are behaving like a rich town, I support the cut.
Steve Hudspeth: I oppose the motions, and in favor of the budget as given by the BOF. Thank you to all of you volunteers.
Bill Lalor: I support the budget and don’t like to pay high taxes. Comparing Wilton to Westport is not apples to apples, it’s apples to Toyotas. There are remedies for dealing with the state cuts, it’s fashionable to cut school budgets, but there are other remedies. The proposed budget is the way to go.
Heather Wilcauskas: We’ve been here 20-plus years. A community is known by the schools it keeps.
Chris Kager: My kids have been out of the system a long time. You can’t put a premium on education. I vote for the budget, even though our kids have been out. My kids have been afforded other opportunities because of that education. But I fear we’re becoming a school with a town, as opposed to a town with a school. Just be aware of that. The real estate taxes are going to be a major issues 4-6 years out. Property values are decreasing $30-50,000 a year.
I love this town, not all of us have the financial freedom.
Cameron Berg: I’m a WHS senior. I don’t know a better one trick pony than to invest in the education of its kids. 30% of the population are under 18. 50% of the homes have students. If there’s one trick to invest in, it would be the students.
Consider the value statements we make in our budget, what we care about as a community. We need to prioritize the well being of the future of our community–that is what education is. The tenor of the conversation has been shifted from those in favor of being bold on education have to support a budget that is extremely lean. What needs to happen is there needs to be a bolder increase. I support the budget because it’s not feasible to not support it. What else is there to care about. We need to be bolder in caring about the budget. We need to be closer in the way we treat one another.
Ross Tartell: Thank everyone who serves. We have underinvested, not over invested in past years and we need to stop that trend.
Frank Simone: In town for 40 years. Others paid for my child, and now I’m happy to pay for others children. I’m retired, I don’t plan on leaving regardless of what happens with the taxes. I support the budget after the hard work from the BOE, BOF and others.
Moses Alexander: would like to call the question. on the amendment.
Scott Lawrence: Is it seconded? (yes)
How many people are waiting to speak on THIS BOE amendment? Five people …
Paul Burnham: also wanted to call the question.
Scott: only 5 more speakers, they can speak.
Christina Duncan: With the solar arrays on the schools, and projected energy savings which will be significant, how has that figured in? If they are saving hundreds of thousands, will that be spent?
Lynne Vanderslice: The BOS is overseeing. It’s gone in on 2 schools, there are about $50,000 in savings in this budget. The total savings we thing over a 20 year period is $1.5-2 million, depending on prices.
Lou Reeves: Today is May 1. I moved here May 1 1968, paying taxes ever since. $600 started, but gladly paying them and support the budget in full.
Brian Smith: We’ve lived here two years, moved here when our oldest left nursery school. Many mentioned PPTs, for those who have not been through it, a PPT is a plan where all the school professionals work with your child. While everyone has memories of teachers who have made a difference, that experience for people who haven’t been through a PPT, I was moved by the compassion and ability of the staff in Wilton, and blown away by their professionalism, organization and thoroughness. I think the schools have gotten here because in meetings people said yes. With all sympathy to economic problems, I’m happy to pay the taxes.
Melissa Rotini: We’ve talked about people paying taxes. Didn’t move for schools, I see a lot of the BOE budget as a hartford problem. We should be looking at everything going on. I’ve had a chance to talk to both people who say budgets are too high, as well as getting to know our top educators. Getting to know their concerns about all the children in the district, they are thoughtful and caring. When you vote to change the budget number, you’re not line-by-lining this. If you have a problem with a particular thing, your are voting up or down on the whole thing. How they cut isn’t up to you, it’s up to them. If you have a specific issue there’s nothing you can do here. Figure it out, has bad consequences.
The market changes, you need to protect the assets that work for us, and this is something that works for us.
Marianne Gustafson: We have been a family for 24 years. We had incredible experiences generally, with very committed teachers, and many PPTs and IEP. I know the unknowns of navigating the system. We spent $200,000 on the DMC report three years ago that said we were not practicing best practices, overspending $1.97 million per year. They brought the CEO who said it would take a while, that’s not true, the report said 1-3 years, we’re in the third year. It’s how we alleviate the burden it was for all struggling students. Something is wrong. We’ve had shifts in curriculum and delivery systems, that has caused stress and anxiety. We have to get tutors, and the teachers don’t like it. It limits their ability. This budget is not bone thin. Not when we have paid $200,000 for a report by a consultancy. We’re wasting $1.97 million. We should have been working, it’s a serious management problem, ignoring resources for all children.
The motion to cut $1,306,000 failed.
The motion to cut $1 failed.
THE MOTION PASSES FOR NO CUT TO THE BOE BUDGET.
So that there will be NO RECONSIDERATION of the budget and NO FURTHER CUTS MADE, (if people leave, someone may make a motion to cut again) Paul Burnham has called the question to vote on the ENTIRE budget.
Only one speaker, Tom Curtin is speaking on the overall budget then another vote will be taken.
Tom Curtin is speaking against the proposed challenge grant to the Library.
Lynne Vanderslice: I encourage everybody to donate to the library.
There are 3 bonding proposals being considered.
All three items, if approved, will be bonded over 10 years to reflect their useful life.
Before discussing each in detail, I’d like to review the 5 year capital plan for perspective.
The 5 year plan currently projects borrowing of $33.1 million during that time period.
During those same 5 years, we will be retiring $33.3 million of existing debt plus making payments on the new debt.
The result being, despite the major projects, debt levels in FY2023 will be lower than our current level of debt .
Major sources of future funding are:
The Expansion of the Police Headquarters and the Renovation of the Town Campus Buildings and Fire Station 2. Resident committees are currently working on those projects
And Infrastructure replacements with the schools.
All of you are familiar with the poor condition of many of our roads.
The $3 million will fund 15 miles of roads.
If we continue at that rate through 2022, all Town roads will be 10 years or younger
THE TURF AT LILLY IS BEYOND ITS USEFUL LIFE.
For $700,000, we are proposing to replace the turf with the same coconut husk infil as installed at the Stadium at
Unlike when the existing turf was installed, we have created funding mechanisms to save for future replacements.
see the photos:
Clearly the parking lot is in poor condition.
Depressions are up to a foot deep
This creates a safety hazard for the drivers, There is also inadequate lighting. Drivers arrive in the dark in the winter and often return in the dark if they are driving for after school activities. A driver was injured this past year, stepping into one of the large potholes.
As noted this and the other proposals will be bonded over 10 years.
Discussion, no amendments allowed:
Dean Keister: The Lilly Field returfing is like increasing the BOE budget. Only students use it. There should be a private group that funds it. I oppose the turf bonding.
Max Fanwick: The track renovation needs to be included in the next year’s bonding. The track is the most used facility. The track has peeled away and is now dangerous for runners, walkers, anyone. It should be a priority in the next bonding round.
Lynne: We are doing some repair work this year. Next year as part of the bonding we will be talking about the track.
[unclear]: When you repave a road, does it last 10 years?
Lynne: A road will last 12-15 years; Drum or Belden will only last 8 years, but that’s why we’re doing 10. We don’t want to be paying when we repave.
[unclear]: Are we bonding the Fire Station 2?
Lynne: there is a study group, they have a plan, we have questions and that will be coming in next year’s discussions. Next year we’ll be bringing a package on public safety and town facilities.
Moses Alexander: We should not be bonding roads. Roads were neglected so we ended up with an untenable solution for the operating budget. But I’d like to see something in next year’s budgets and ensuing budgets to get out of the cycle of bonding for roads, which have never been done for roads up until 5-6 years ago. We should have an annual cost in the capital budget. we don’t bond police cars. Unless we start inserting something into the annual budget, that increase in the year we stop bonding, but need to continue to fix, we’re going to fall back. Year to year it’s not comparable because that number used to be in operating.
Lynne: We’ve had $300,000 every year. I was like you for years on the BOF opposing bonding for roads. When budgets were cut, the BOS cut that cost. I get it now. When you have a 1.5% target, if you don’t have positions to eliminate, and health costs are up 8%, you only have so many areas you can cut. You have the same number of residents, roads and facilities, so historically that’s what gets cut. We go through cycles of underfunding roads, and when they get bad, we bond. At the end of the 5 years we have to have a real conversation–are we going to continue the cycle, or acknowledge that the only way we can keep roads in that 10-12 year, is are we going to bond. It’s $2 million in operating expenses, and it’s tough to bring that to a town meeting.
Comments now closed.
That concludes the meeting. Meeting adjourned, and voting begins!