Wilton’s Town Budget Process: How Residents Can Be Informed and Participate

The 2018 Annual Town Meeting was well-attended.

It’s that time of year again… budget season for the Town of Wilton.

The Town is better served when all residents are informed and participating in the budget process. Whether you are new to town or have been here a while, whether you have kids in the Wilton schools or not, whether you are a budget pro or have always avoided the topic, we’ve put together everything you need to know to follow the FY2023 budget proposals.

A Primer

Wilton has a “Town Meeting” form of government. Once a year, the town has to set a budget for the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Budgets are proposed separately by the Board of Selectmen (BOS) and the Board of Education (BOE). Together, those key budget numbers largely determine how much residents will be charged in property taxes to cover the Town’s needs.

After a series of BOS, BOE and Board of Finance (BOF) meetings and public hearings, the budget is presented to residents at the Annual Town Meeting (ATM).

Each Wilton resident who is an eligible voter is considered a member of the Town Meeting (the voting body) and may vote whether or not to approve that budget. The ATM is traditionally held on the first Tuesday of May, with an additional day of voting on the following Saturday.

The various deadlines, rules and regulations for the Annual Town Meeting are dictated under Wilton’s Town Charter.

Pandemic Impact on Budget Process

Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the budget process in several ways.

In the FY2021 budget cycle, for example, executive orders by Gov. Ned Lamont allowed more time for the process, and also gave the Board of Finance (BOF) final budget decision authority rather than holding a Town vote.

As of now, however, Town officials are operating under the assumption that the pandemic will not interfere with this year’s budget planning or Town Meeting processes.

Budget Proposals

The BOS and BOE each develop their budgets on simultaneous tracks, with BOF involvement along the way, followed by public hearings on both proposed budgets.

On Jan. 20, Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith presented an initial budget proposal to the BOE, with a 2.99% year-over-year increase — a roughly $2.5 million increase, one of the largest increases in recent years.

Internal BOE budget workshops ensued, Jan. 25-27, with various school officials explaining how their budgets were put together to BOE members, who were able to ask questions about details.

Though several meeting dates are still to be determined, the next sequence of events will be as follows:

  • Thursday, Feb. 3: BOE special meeting budget deliberations
  • Monday, Feb. 7: BOS budget overview (note: 6 p.m. start)
  • Tuesday, Feb. 8: BOF regular meeting (look for more budget meeting/hearing dates to be set)
  • Wednesday, Feb. 9: BOS budget discussions — Police, Fire, Public Works, Transfer Station
  • Thursday, Feb. 10: BOE-BOF joint meeting/budget review
  • Tuesday, Feb. 15: BOS budget discussions — Parks & Recreation, Land Use, Social Services, Administrative departments
  • Tuesday, Feb. 15: Deadline for scheduling public hearings on BOE and BOS budget requests
  • Thursday, Feb. 17: BOE votes to adopt final budget proposal
  • Tuesday, Feb. 22: BOS votes to approve final proposed budget
  • TBD: BOF reviews BOE and BOS budgets
  • TBD: Public hearings on BOE and BOS budgets (must be completed by March 29 deadline)
  • TBD: BOF mill rate deliberations (1-3 days)
  • Tuesday, Apr. 12: Deadline for BOF to set final budget recommendation to bring to the Annual Town Meeting
  • Tuesday, May 3, 7 p.m.: Annual Town Meeting at Clune Auditorium

BOS Meetings

All BOS meetings are open to the public and are being held on Zoom. To attend a BOS meeting remotely, you can find the Zoom link on the meeting agenda.

An agenda will be posted 24 hours (or one business day) in advance on the BOS webpage on the town website. The agenda can also be found by clicking on the meeting on the calendar on the Town website homepage.

To submit a comment for a meeting, send an email to First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. Include “Public Comment” and the meeting date in the subject line along with your name and Wilton address. Meeting attendees may also speak during the designated public comment portion of the meeting, by using the Zoom feature to raise a hand.

If you miss a meeting, you can find the agenda, minutes and recorded Zoom meeting video on the town website.

BOE Meetings

Board of Education meeting agendas, minutes and recorded meeting videos can be accessed through the BoardDocs menu on the left side of the BOE webpage.

To attend a meeting remotely, you may find the Zoom link on the meeting agenda. Meetings can also be viewed on the BOE YouTube Channel.

Residents may submit questions or comment by email to Lucille DeNovio and note “Public Comment” and the meeting date in the subject line, along with your name and Wilton address. Emails will be read during the public comment portion of the agenda. Residents may also appear in person at BOE meetings. Each public comment is typically limited to two minutes.

The Board of Ed budget documents, including the superintendent’s Jan. 20 budget presentation, are posted on the BOE webpage under “Budget Information” on the right side of the webpage (the 2021-2022 budget documents are there, too.)

Expressing Your Views to the BOE

The BOE encourages input from the public. A statement on the BOE webpage offers these important reminders:

“The Board of Education relies on input from the voters to help it make informed decisions about what is right for Wilton. Letters and emails are always welcome, but please remember that all communications sent to Town boards and officials become part of the public record and are subject to legal requirements for disclosure and retention.”

Because correspondence to any individual board member will ultimately be shared with the entire board, the BOE encourages emails to be sent to all BOE members using the single BOE email address.