Wilton’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) met Tuesday evening, Feb. 22, and voted in favor of the latest budget proposed by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice for FY2023. The roughly $33.9 million budget represents a 1.37% increase over FY2022 — a lower figure than was first proposed two weeks earlier.
The board’s decision follows a parallel step made just days ago by Wilton’s Board of Education (BOE), which voted to adopt a nearly $87.6 million budget (a 3.26% increase) proposed by Wilton Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith for the 2022-2023 school year.
Both BOS and BOE budgets will now move on to a review by Wilton’s Board of Finance (BOF).
Evolving Budget Assumptions
Vanderslice presented the selectmen with budget numbers that were revised slightly since her initial budget presentation on Feb. 7. (That initial budget request was for roughly $34.1 million — a 1.89% increase over the FY2022 budget.)
“We do have some adjustments to the budget that was presented on Feb. 7,” Vanderslice began.
Citing revised projections on interest and investment income, along with updated estimates for motor vehicle revenue collections, Vanderslice provided a rosier revenue outlook than was expected just a few weeks ago.
“We’ll continue to watch revenues over the next month and more,” Vanderslice added, hinting that more favorable budget changes might even still be possible.
Vanderslice also highlighted some modifications on the cost side of the budget, such as a $96,085 reduction in wages (an employee was inadvertently counted twice), $63,000 in road salt expense that would be applied to a grant fund, and a $13,500 reduction in COVID-related custodial services, among others.
In all, the BOS budget was reduced roughly $176,000 ($149,000 in operating expense and $27,000 in operating capital) compared to the Feb. 7 budget proposal.
Vanderslice emphasized that the latest proposed budget for roughly $33.9 million represents a 0.38% increase compared to the pre-COVID, FY2020 budget — and a mere 0.13% average increase over the past three years.
“Nobody should be asking us to cut our budget when you look at that,” Vanderslice said.
Still, factoring in a more significant 3.26% Board of Ed budget increase, Vanderslice acknowledged the Board of Finance might balk at the projected mill rate increase of 2.98%.
Nonetheless, with a unanimous vote by the selectmen to advance with the latest BOS budget numbers, Vanderslice said she expected to forward the BOS budget proposal to the BOF later in the week.
Next BOS Budget Steps
- March 15: BOF review of BOS budget proposal
- March 24: Public hearing on the BOS budget proposal
- Tuesday, May 3, 7 p.m.: Annual Town Meeting at Clune Auditorium
Unsure how the budget process works? Read our primer and look for GMW’s continuing coverage of the FY2023 budget process.
More BOS Business
The board addressed several other issues during the Feb. 22 meeting:
- Nicholas Bamonte, an attorney with the Town’s law firm Bercham Moses, updated the board on the status of 647 Danbury Rd. The property is owned by the state and is being sold to Hoffman Landscapes, which has leased the property for several years. For statutory reasons, the state cannot sell the property directly to Hoffman; it must first transfer to Wilton. Wilton will be indemnified from any liability during the property transfer and will be reimbursed for administrative costs for its role in the transaction.
- Director of Land Use and Town Planner Michael Wrinn received input from board members on a number of potential strategies that would be prioritized in the development of Wilton’s affordable housing plan. Wrinn will synthesize the feedback in a revised set of strategies for approval by the BOS at a later date.
- Environmental Affairs Director Mike Conklin submitted a request for funding from Wilton’s ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) grant money and Wilton’s Infrastructure fund for improvements at Schenck’s Island and in Wilton trails and open spaces. Look for more in-depth reporting on this from GOOD Morning Wilton soon.
- Conklin also submitted a draft of a new policy for “Friends of” groups that work to advocate for various causes. The policy comes after one friends group, the Friends of Bradley Park, began advocating for changes in Bradley Park. The group formed last year when rogue trails in that park became difficult for the Town to manage. GOOD Morning Wilton will report further on this following the next Conservation Commission meeting next Wednesday, March 2.
- DPW Director Frank Smeriglio updated the board on two grants Wilton has secured from the state of Connecticut for replacement of Cannon Rd. and Honey Hill bridges. The BOS authorized Vanderslice to execute agreements with the state to proceed with the grants. Under the agreements, 100% of the design and 80% of the construction costs will be provided by the state, while Wilton will be responsible for the remaining 20% of construction costs.