Wilton’s FY ’14 budget: A hidden benefit

The Town of Wilton’s Annual Town Meeting will be held at Middlebrook School’s Auditorium on Tuesday, May 7th at 7:30 p.m.  Please plan to attend this important meeting, during which the Town’s fiscal year budget for 2014 will be presented. Voting will follow the meeting and an adjourned vote will be held on Saturday, May 11th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Wilton High School’s Clune Center.

The proposed FY ’14 budget and three bonded capital projects are collectively supported by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Education and the Board of Finance.

In 2012, a state-required revaluation of all Wilton real estate properties was conducted. This revaluation resulted in a 17-20% reduction of residential property values. As a result, the Town’s mill rate had to be increased to cover the Town and Board of Education operating expenditures, which are unaffected by property value changes. This action is similar to what many other Connecticut communities have experienced following recent property revaluations.

Fortunately, for most Wilton property owners, despite the higher mill rate, THE TAX BILL FOR FY 14 WILL BE LESS THAN LAST YEAR. A random survey of residential properties, including condos, indicated that a majority of the properties surveyed will have a FY 14 tax dollar obligation less than last year, an exception being properties that have had recent improvements.

Please keep this in mind when you reflect on the following agreed upon year-over-year final budget proposals.

Proposed Variance to

FY ’14 Budget FY ’13

Bd of Selectmen $30,947,323 +1.98%

Bd of Education $76,140,105 +2.82%

While year-over-year operating expenses are up for both the Town and Schools, due primarily to wage and medical insurance increases, special education costs and a major adjustment to Wilton’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps funding, these operating expense variances were offset by increased revenues and substantially lower expenditures vs. budget in this current year that increased fund balances. As a result, when the revised mill rate is applied to lower assessed property valuations, most residents’ tax bills will be slightly lower than last year’s tax bill.

From the start of the budget process, critical planning objectives focused on protecting the core services the Wilton community values — our superior education system, public safety, security, the Town’s infrastructure, and other essential services. The proposed budget will accomplish these goals.

At the May 7th meeting, three bonded capital projects will also be presented for approval by the Town. The Board of Selectmen has the responsibility to meet the future needs of Wilton, which we believe are as follows:

• Dependable public safety, security and emergency capabilities;

• Maintenance of Town-owned buildings and school facilities;

• Preservation of major assets — Town roads, sewers, communication systems, etc.;

• Improved physical conditions of our schools and community facilities.

To help meet these needs, the Board of Selectmen feel it is essential to make required investments to improve aged and deteriorating boilers and heating systems in five Town-owned buildings and schools. Three of the school building heating projects are tied to the Town’s strategic initiative to expand natural gas distribution to these facilities. Boiler replacements or conversion projects to utilize natural gas will not be bonded on these school buildings until the Town of Wilton/Yankee Gas expansion project agreement is finalized and executed.

In addition, long deferred maintenance at the Comstock Community Center is proposed, including a forensic evaluation of the facility to assist design and engineering planning to improve the Town’s primary Community and Senior Center.

In summary, Town departments and the major boards, staffed by citizen volunteers, have spent many months thoughtfully developing, analyzing and debating the proposed FY ’14 budget and capital bonding projects. While there was serious concern over whether reduced operating budgets would be sufficient to provide the essential community services that Town residents rely upon, consensus was eventually reached!

On behalf of the Board of Selectmen, I urge your approval of the FY ’14 budget, along with the three proposed capital bonding projects. Please vote on May 7th after the Annual Town Meeting or on Saturday, May 11th. Thank you for your support and for voting on these important community matters.