From Town Hall: The facts about the Board of Selectmen budget

In last week’s Bulletin, a guest columnist criticized the low growth rate of Board of Selectmen (BOS) budgets. The BOS’s ability to do more with less is a good thing. Our informed management has eliminated unnecessary costs and provided residents with a more efficient and responsive town government.
Specifically, the reduced budget growth is the result of:

Having just filed their 2018 tax returns, many residents are feeling the impact of the loss of the deductibility of state and local income and property taxes. They recognize that it is advantageous to seek smart reductions in the cost of government. They also recognize that it is more cost-efficient to donate directly to nonprofits, rather than through nondeductible property taxes. Earlier this year, Wilton Library reported it had earned the BOS’s challenge grant and in doing so acquired more new donors. We did not repeat the challenge for FY2020, as the library had unexpected building repair expenses, much like the Trackside Teen Center, whose grant was left flat.
The changes to the BOS budget, as a result of the reduction by the BOF, did not impact the library as the guest columnist incorrectly assumed. Instead they reflected savings identified after submission of the budget and savings we hope to achieve as a result of our ongoing investigation of alternate medical plans.
The economic challenges of our state government and the Connecticut economy mean we all, government, businesses, nonprofits and residents, need to think differently and creatively. As often happens, such thinking brings about a better result.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, another article published about town employee earnings had residents questioning police and firefighter compensation.
Newly hired police patrol officers with no experience begin at a salary in the mid $60,000s for a 38.31-hour workweek. The most experienced patrol officers are paid in the high $80,000s. Sergeants are paid just over $100,000.
All officers, other than the police chief, the two captains and the three lieutenants, are eligible for overtime. Overtime is required when another officer is not available for work, such as when a new officer is attending the police academy, or when an officer is out on worker’s compensation. This overtime is referred to as regular duty overtime and is paid by the town. Officers are also able to voluntarily perform extra-duty work. This work is paid at an overtime rate, for which the town is reimbursed by a third party that requested or is required to hire the service. This extra-duty overtime was included in the compensation reported by the Bulletin although it was not an expense of the town. Extra-duty earnings can be significant on an individual basis.
In addition to the wage reimbursement, the town receives additional administrative fees. The FY2020 budgeted cost for the purchase of police vehicles was reduced by approximately $30,000 in collected fees.
We employ 24 firefighters on an average 42-hour regular workweek (typically two, 24-hour shifts per week). The remaining required hours are filled by planned overtime. Newly hired firefighters with no professional experience are paid in the low $60,000s. The most experienced captains are paid in the mid $90,000s for the 42-hour workweek.
The police department is currently down one patrol officer. The Police Commission anticipates filling the position prior to the October Police Academy. Firefighters are at full staffing.