Monday, Board of Finance member John Kalamarides published an OP-ED about his board’s vote to reduce the proposed FY2020 town and schools budgets–a vote with which he disagreed. Today, First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice responds to what Kalamarides wrote.

In Monday’s OP-ED, a resident put the low growth rate of recent Board of Selectmen (BOS) budgets in a negative light. The BOS’s ability to do more with less is a good thing. Our informed management has eliminated unnecessary costs and provided residents with a more efficient and responsive Town government.

Specifically, the reduced budget growth is the result of:

New administrative employees with a greater depth and breadth of experience and skills, which allow them to assume more responsibilities than their predecessors. The reorganization of DPW is a good example of this. After the completion of Miller-Driscoll, the Town’s facility director assumed the responsibilities of the former school facilities director. It was a natural fit as the individual had many years of professional experience in construction and facilities management.

When the Town’s DPW director/town engineer retired and the Town’s field engineer moved on to another opportunity, the facilities director, who had also previously supervised DPW for a large CT city, assumed the responsibilities of DPW director.  An assistant director/town engineer was hired to assume the remaining responsibilities. The entire reorganization resulted in one less administrative position for the Town and the schools.    

Technology has resulted in improved efficiencies in a number of departments, including finance and police. New public facing technology, such as Parks & Rec’s online programming and rental system, online GIS, SeeClickFix, the revamped Town website and upgrades to the online tax payment system, not only improve the resident experience, but also improve staff efficiencies.

Retirements among collective bargaining positions have resulted in new employees being hired at lower wage rates and, in most cases, with less costly benefits.

Prioritization of spending, critical analysis of need and a focus on public benefit have meant we are making the right expenditures at the right time. The recently requested reexamination of the needs of Fire Station 2 resulted in a determination by the Fire Commission that there wasn’t a need to raise the height of the building or expand the firehouse.  What had been a potential $1.4 million project is now a series of deferred maintenance projects with an estimated cost of $250,000-$300,000.

Collective Bargaining negotiations have resulted in lower growth rates for wages and favorable changes in benefits.

Improved accounting procedures and financial policies, including the mandatory use of purchase orders, forecasting and updated RFP requirements, have resulted in a greater ability to manage and control expenses. New accounting policies have strengthened the balance sheet.

Having just filed your 2018 tax returns, many of you are feeling the impact of the loss of the deductibility of state and local income and property taxes. You recognize that it is advantageous to seek smart reductions in the cost of government. You also recognize that it is more cost efficient to donate directly to nonprofits, rather than through nondeductible property taxes. Earlier this year, the Wilton Library reported they had earned the BOS’s challenge grant and in doing so acquired more new donors. We did not repeat the challenge for FY2020, as the Library had unexpected building repair expenses, much like the Trackside Teen Center, whose grant was left flat.

The changes to the BOS budget, as a result of the reduction by the BOF, did not impact the Library as the resident incorrectly assumed.  Instead they reflected savings identified after submission of the budget and savings we hope to achieve as a result of our ongoing investigation of alternate medical plans.

The economic challenges of our state government and the CT economy mean we all, government, businesses, nonprofits and residents, need to think differently and creatively.  As often happens, such thinking brings about a better result.