Wilton selectmen plan budget cuts, approve tax deferment
WILTON — The selectmen are sharpening their pencils. In keeping with budget guidance issued by the Board of Finance, the board is looking for ways to cut its initial FY 2021 town budget proposal.
Before the selectmen’s meeting on April 21, the finance board voted to ask the selectmen and Board of Education to provide four revised budget proposals:
Flat to the FY2020 budget.
2 percent less than the FY2020 budget.
5 percent less than the FY2020 budget.
10 percent less than the FY2020 budget.
The 10-percent reduction reflects concerns about the ability to finance any significant shortfall in tax receipts due to nonpayment.
The selectmen will create four budget scenarios to discuss at its meeting on Monday, May 4.
Before the pandemic hit Connecticut, the selectmen had adopted a $33.9 million budget for 2021, an increase of 1.22 percent over this year’s budget of $32.5 million. The Board of Education adopted an $84-million budget, a 2.58-percent increase over the current budget of $81.8 million.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said capital projects could be put on hold to meet the budget guidance, such as the police department/town hall building project, and replacement of the stadium track at Wilton High School.
A number of bonding items could go on the November ballot, she said, including refurbishment of a ladder truck for the fire department.
There is enough previously approved money for road paving through November, and funds have already been approved for two bridge projects, so they can move forward, she said.
The town has run into a setback on employee health insurance costs.
Vanderslice was hoping to save $600,000 in the FY 2021 town budget by switching from the town’s self-insured plan with Anthem to the State Partnership Plan for employee health care. “Anthem is up 12.25 percent if we stay with them,” Vanderslice said.
Town union members have not yet met with the state to discuss the plan, so a possible switch would not be ready by July 1, she said. The next target date for making a healthcare change is Oct. 1.
With the Annual Town Meeting canceled this year in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the finance board will be approving the town and school budgets and setting the mill rate.
The selectmen adopted the dates June 1, June 2, and June 3, for the finance board to deliberate and approve the budgets and mill rate.
The board voted unanimously to approve a tax deferment program as required by Gov. Ned Lamont’s Executive Order 7S.
The program allows eligible taxpayers a deferment by 90 days of any taxes on real property, personal property or motor vehicles, or municipal water, sewer and electric rates, charges or assessments.
Eligible taxpayers, businesses, nonprofits, and residents are those that attest to and document significant economic impact by COVID-19, and/or those that document they are providing relief to those significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is trying to take care of people who are most in need. This is an area where we can step up,” said Selectman Ross Tartell.
Under 7S, municipalities also had the option to establish a three-percent low interest rate program on delinquent taxes, applicable to all taxpayers.
The selectmen declined that option.
Vanderslice said more information about the tax deferment program will soon be available on the town’s website, wiltonct.org.