Wilton’s budget not affected by coronavirus, yet
WILTON — Although Wilton has incurred a number of expenses related to the coronavirus, the town’s budget forecast is currently positive. But a number of unknown factors could turn that around.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice gave an accounting of revenue and expenses at Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting which was livestreamed to the public.
On the revenue side, the town’s general fund is forecast to be $541,000 favorable, Vanderslice said.
The budget was previously forecast to be $300,000 favorable. But it was upped to $541,000 due to a forecasted increase for building permits, interest income, back taxes, and interest and fees. Those are offset by a forecasted reduction in conveyance fees.
A shortfall of $53,000 is expected at the Transfer Station for residential ticket sales, as no tickets are required during the emergency.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, expenses were forecast to be $200,000 favorable. The current forecast is $457,000 favorable, but this does not include expenses that may be due to the coronavirus.
The additional $257,000 favorability is due to employee vacancies not being filled until after the emergency, overtime favorability in non-emergency services departments, and cost savings due to unoccupied or underutilized buildings.
Vanderslice said it is too early to forecast coronavirus direct expenses because “we don’t know the length of the emergency and the extent of emergency facilities required, but at this point anticipate the current forecast is adequate to requirements.”
Current and potential coronavirus expenses:
Housing for emergency responder isolation and quarantine, incurred to date: Facility charge for cleaning. Potential: Meals.
Secondary housing for emergency responder isolation and quarantine. Possible: Cleaning, nursing, meals.
Housing at Miller-Driscoll school for residents who cannot isolate or quarantine at home. Incurred or in process: Cleaning, packing and storage of room contents, bed rentals. Potential: Rental of shower facilities, nursing, meals, as needed.
Assistance to long-term care facilities: Temporary nursing.
School janitors redeployed to perform cleaning. Corresponding savings for Board of Education for regular hours.
VNA nurses, including school nurses, redeployed to perform nursing and assist within the health department with positive cases. No budget impact.
Supplies — incurred: Medical, cleaning, sanitizing.
Temporary personnel — incurred: 1.5 employee equivalent in health department. Potential: 0.5 in fire department.
School campus supervisors redeployed to patrol fields and recreational facilities. Corresponding savings in Board of Education regular hours.
Medical benefits incurred: Waiver of employee co-pay on COVID-19 testing and doctor visits. Contracted for tele-health during the emergency. Potential: Costs for COVID-19 hospitalization.
Transfer station: Increased disposal fees due to doubling in volume during the emergency.
Selectmen Joshua Cole asked why Miller-Driscoll was planned to house residents instead of the Comstock Community Center.
Vanderslice said the bathrooms at Comstock are shared bathrooms, while there are individual bathrooms in the classrooms at Miller-Driscoll school. If additional space is needed, Comstock could be put into use, too. “We hope not to have to use it,” Vanderslice said.
There are also a number of unknown factors which could have a potential impact on the FY2021 budget, Vanderslice said.
Unknown budget factors include:
Conveyance revenue, unknown impact on the real estate market.
Building permit fees, unknown whether projects will move forward.
Property tax collections, timing due to executive order.
Interest on back taxes, lost interest due to executive order.
Emergency continues past June 30, direct expenses continue.
Risk related to savings from moving to the state health care plan, as the process is suspended and level of state subsidy may change.
State grants, the state is running a deficit, possible impact on next year’s grants.
The seletmen will be discussing the budget with the Board of Finance and Board of Educatiuon at a tri-board meeting on Thursday, April 9, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be livestreamed from a link on the town’s website.