Town budget requests jump 2%

 

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice introduced a preliminary town budget in which requests total $33.8 million, up 2.025%, or $672,486 more than in the current year, at a budget work session on Saturday, Feb. 3.

The increase would have been much smaller if rising insurance costs had not been an issue, Vanderslice told the selectmen and the small gathering of department heads in the meeting room at town hall.

The budget requests were broken down as follows:

  • Medical costs — pegged at $4,072,201 — drove up the request by 1.52%. A total of $504,705 more is needed to cover these insurance costs, based on an expected increase of 14%. That is because of the challenge of a number of very high-value medical claims, which has resulted in an increase in insurance costs, she said.
  • “All other” costs in the operating budget — $28,626,890 — account for an increase of $159,916, or 0.482%.
  • Operating capital was pegged at $1,182,271, an increase of $7,865, or 0.24%. The budget document the selectmen worked with may be found at wiltonct.org.

This budget — which is not finalized — tops the 1.5% increase the Board of Finance issued as a guideline. Vanderslice said she had not expected that adhering to that guideline would be a problem until the insurance numbers came in. Still, it could have been worse, she said.

“I want to congratulate the town employees for putting together budgets where all other expenses other than medical are at about half a percent,” Vanderslice said. That includes $50,551 for the library. If that is discounted because it is not a town department, she said, “and if you back out the $38,000 the fire department is still looking at … we’re only looking at an $80,000 increase from last year’s budget, which I think is pretty commendable when you don’t include medical.”

A good part of the savings has come from wages:

  • Sharing Finance Director Anne Kelly-Lenz with the school district.
  • Eliminating one police position by mid-year.
  • Reducing overtime for the Department of Public Works.
  • Creating labor efficiencies.

Vanderslice said the town is reaping the rewards of benefit changes through contract negotiations and changes to non-union employees, resulting in employees contributing more to their benefits. Pension contributions are also down because employees are no longer being added to the plans.

Department breakdowns

The departments that gathered to hear the budget numbers and present their own requests included the Department of Public Works, Planning and Land Use, and the police department.

Police Chief John Lynch expressed gratitude for the Saturday morning meeting, unusual for the selectmen.

“Thanks for meeting with us at 11:45 a.m. instead of 11:45 p.m.,” Lynch said, referring to how late meetings on weeknights can run.

The police department asked for $8.51 million, up from $8.25 million, a 3.13% increase.

Social services asked for $758,216, up from $739,136, a 2.58% increase.

Public works asked for $4.54 million, up from $4.47 million, a 1.58% increase.

The health department asked for $497,172, up from $470,759, a 4.33% increase.

Environmental affairs asked for $431,526, up from $427,061, a 1.04% increase.

The building department asked for $418,486, up from $401,424, a 4.25% increase.

Planning and Zoning asked for $610,340, up from $587,640, a 3.86% increase.

The Board of Selectmen asked for $530,747, up from $521,753, a 1.72% increase.

The fire department was scheduled to present its budget Saturday, but had to postpone because costs are still being figured.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith has already requested his budget. He has asked for $82.2 million, up 1.98% from the current year.

Budget discussions continued on Monday, Feb. 5, during a Board of Selectmen meeting at 7:30 p.m. at town hall, when more departments made their presentations, including human resources, the town clerk’s office, the registrars of voters, information systems, and the finance department. A general budget discussion was also on the agenda.

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