Last night Wilton held its Annual Town Meeting, and town officials and residents alike anticipated that the meeting wouldn’t be simply run of the mill. Hardly anyone expected the FY-2017 budget as proposed by the Board of Finance to sail through without objection.
Indeed, getting through the 3-plus hour meeting certainly wasn’t completely smooth sailing. Yes, people were remarkably polite and well behaved; there was no shouting or speaking out of turn. And things were certainly kept orderly by a deft moderator, Scott Lawrence, and Robert’s Rules of Order. Presentations were heard from Bd. of Finance chair Jeffrey Rutishauser, first selectman Lynne Vanderslice and Bd. of Education chair Bruce Likly, and those presentations were then followed by residents who had signed up to make comments, who calmly approached the microphones when called on. In a room of about 400 people, there was very little conflict.
However, two motions were made from the floor for budget cuts, something that doesn’t happen often. Both motions were made by resident Al Alper. The first was to reduce the Board of Selectmen’s budget by $200,000, but he withdrew that motion when he was told the charter only allows reductions to specific line items in the Selectmen’s budget; he then revised his motion to reduce the Department of Public Works budget by $200,000. That motion failed.
Alper’s second motion was to reduce the Board of Education budget by $800,000. In combination with the $400,000 that the Board of Finance had previously cut from the BoE budget, Alper’s motion would have brought the BoE budget down to a zero increase over FY 2016. That motion, too, was defeated in a vote of the electors in the audience.
Another resident, Simon Reiff, challenged the Board of Education’s proposed expenditure on technology, suggesting that perhaps the $2.3 million line item should instead be bonded. When he was told that bringing an item to bonding at the town meeting wasn’t possible, he tried to make a motion to simply cut the education budget, but he was cut off and prevented from making the motion because his time to speak had expired before the motion was made.
In the end, the Town Meeting didn’t amend the budget and mill rate increase as proposed by the Board of Finance. What electors will consider and vote on is a proposed budget of $125,488,107 (1-percent increase over 2016) and a mil rate of 27.34 mils. The budget breaks down to $31,015,191 in operating expenses for the town, and $80,572,640 in operating expenses for the school district.
Of the 400 or so attendees, only 177 stayed to cast their votes after the meeting adjourned. Voting will continue Saturday, May 7 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clune Center Auditorium.
The voter turnout threshold is 15-percent. If fewer than 15 percent of eligible Wilton voters show up to vote, the budget will automatically pass, no matter the vote tally.
There are three options when answering this first question:
- No, too high
- No, too low
In addition there are 2 bonded projects for consideration, for which the only option is to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’. These pass or fail on majority vote, regardless of the voter turnout percentage:
- $1,800,000 paving project
- $650,000 replace stadium turf