From Town Hall: Understanding the ballot questions

With eight ballot questions, this year’s Annual Town Meeting promises to be interesting. I encourage all residents to attend. The meeting on May 2 begins sharply at 7:30 p.m. at the Clune Center. Please arrive early enough to allow time to check in with the registrars. The following is being provided to help facilitate the meeting and inform those voting on Saturday, May 6, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Clune Center.

Question 1: Proposed FY2018 Annual Budget and Mill Rate

The Board of Finance is proposing an operating budget of $126.8 million and a mill rate of 27.7685. The proposed mill rate is 1.58% higher than the current year’s mill rate.

Within the operating budget are Board of Selectmen (BOS) proposed expenditures of $33.2 million. Unlike the current year’s BOS budget, which is approximately $200,000 less than the previous year’s budget, the proposed BOS budget reflects a $1-million increase. The increase is primarily driven by general wage increases ranging from 1.95% for non-union employees to 2.75% for police union employees and an unusually high increase in medical premiums. The large premium increase is due to an adjustment of an over-estimation of the decrease in the High Deductible (HD) plan medical premiums for FY 2016. Despite this, savings have been achieved as the average annual increase for the last four years for the HD plan was 4.67% per year versus 8.67% for the PPO plan. Additional expenses include $50,000 for the Plan of Conservation and Development, a $90,000 increase in building repairs to address long outstanding items, and a $60,000 increase in the tax bill from the Georgetown Volunteer Fire District due to an equipment purchase.

Despite the budgeted increase, there are savings including the elimination of two full-time positions, the reduction of benefits for new town hall and non-union personnel, and changes to the transfer station resulting in a reduction of operating costs.

Question 2: Five-year road restoration project: $2.8 million to repave 15 miles per year.

A 50% increase from our current repaving of 10 miles per year. After five years at this level of funding, all roads will be 10 years old or less.

Question 3: Planning study, conceptual plan and other for police station renovation/expansion

Funding for up to 10% of a FY2015 $12.7-million cost estimate based on a previous needs assessment. Recently appointed planning committee, guided by Wilton’s Facility Director Chris Burney and assisted by Police Chief Lynch, will reconsider needs assessment. All building space on the town campus and Comstock are being considered. Expenditures will include engineering studies of campus buildings as necessary, development of conceptual plans to be presented at the May 2018 Annual Town Meeting and monies to prepare building(s) for relocation of departments should that be the conclusion of the planning committee. Monies will only be borrowed if expended. Expenditures will be approved by the Board of Selectmen or the first selectman. Please read Chief Lynch’s Op-Ed for further details about the current facility.

Question 4: Replacement of Wilton High School tennis courts

This would provide $450,000 to replace 13-year-old blacktop courts with post tension concrete courts with a 20-year warranty. Blacktop has a one-year warranty. Courts have permanent cracking throughout along with “pot holes” which require annual maintenance and patching. Similar to a road, the cracks remain until blacktop is replaced. These courts are the town’s only lighted courts serving the Wilton High School tennis teams, the Parks & Recreation summer tennis camp, the continuing education programs and residents of all ages and abilities.

Question 5:  Board of Education districtwide roof replacement

First $100,000 of an estimated $1.6-million roof replacement project for all or parts of the Cider Mill, Middlebrook and high school roofs. Funds to be used to perform engineering analysis of the roofs, assign priorities and develop a conceptual design plan for the project.

Question 6: Middlebrook School elevator replacement

This provides $100,000 to replace an elevator, which frequently breaks down and for which the repair company has certified there are no longer available replacement parts. Elevator is required to allow permanently and temporarily disabled students and staff to utilize their assigned classroom.

Question 7: New ordinance for the sale of alcoholic liquor in restaurants

Adoption of the state’s hours for the sale of alcohol in restaurants. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m., Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. and New Year’s Eve until 3 a.m.

Question 8: Discontinuance of Old 2 Rod Highway

Old 2 Rod Highway is an undeveloped “road” at the end of Wampum Hill Road. A Superior Court decision, upheld by the appellate court, found the highway to be a public road. A developer with two properties has the right to pass over the road (i.e. install a driveway). The town has no desire to assume responsibility for maintenance, snow plowing or potential liability. The Board of Selectmen voted to discontinue the road. The decision must be approved by the Town Meeting. The discontinuance will have no direct impact on developer’s ability to build on his property.

Please email me at [email protected] with questions.

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