Wilton selectmen to make budget cuts tonight
WILTON — Cuts to town grants to Wilton Library and Trackside Teen Center are just two of a number of budget items on the chopping block at tonight’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting at 7:30 p.m. through a live stream video.
The Board of Finance has asked the selectmen to present several scenarios for the town budget: Flat to the FY2020 budget, 2-percent less, 5-percent less and 10-percent less.
The finance board is meeting tomorrow, May 12, at 7 p.m. to review the town and school budget proposals and set preliminary budget and mill rate figures.
The public can view those numbers and submit comments to email@example.com. The finance board will then meet on June 1, 2, and 3, for final deliberations and approval of a budget and mill rate.
The requirement for an Annual Town Meeting and adjourned vote on the FY2021 budget was suspended by Gov. Lamont, and the finance board on its own initiative will set the budget and the mill rate.
Before the pandemic hit Connecticut, the selectmen had proposed a $33.9 million town budget request for FY2021, an increase of 1.22 percent, $410,000 over this year’s budget of $32.5 million.
“My proposal to the Board of Selectmen for adjustments to our submitted budget, to achieve flat, or a reduction of $410,000 and to achieve 2% below or a reduction of $1,080,000, are available on the town website,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
As part of their reduction proposals, the selectmen are considering cuts to the $2,854,156 grant to Wilton Library and $65,334 grant to Trackside Teen Center.
“The Board of Selectmen received a number of emails about possible reductions to the library and Trackside grants. I understand resident concerns, as I am and have been a donor to both organizations. Unfortunately, we are at a time, which may require shared sacrifices,” Vanderslice said.
She posted the following explanation for the cuts in a message on the town’s website:
“The Board of Finance has expressed concerns about residents’ ability to pay property taxes, town liquidity issues if residents don’t pay their taxes and the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic.
“In preparing the new proposed budgets, town departments and I needed to prioritize spending, with an emphasis on necessary spending to allow the town to continue to adequately address the emergency and to ensure continuation of necessary services that serve the entire community.
“The first recommended and voluntary reduction was a $30,000 or 21.6-percent cut to my salary, both as an act of leadership, but also as a reflection of the 15 to 20 percent estimated current unemployment rate in Wilton and the loss of income happening in many Wilton households.
“To achieve a flat budget, $757,000 of proposed cuts were made to previously submitted town department budgets, which translates into reductions in services and the elimination of all new initiatives including Schenck’s Island and the clearing of the Norwalk River along River Road. A $56,000 proposed cut was made to the library‘s previously approved grant and a proposed $10,000 cut to Trackside’s previously approved grant.
“To achieve a 2-percent budget reduction, $1,271,000 of proposed cuts were made to the previously submitted town department budgets, which translates into reductions in employees, widespread reduction in employee hours and further reductions in services, $157,000 in cuts to the library grant and $65,000 in cuts to the Trackside grant. The library was prioritized over Trackside as it services the entire community, while Trackside services a small segment of the community.
“The town department heads and I did not take this task lightly. No one wants to cut services and no one wants a reduction in pay, but we are in unprecedented times with much uncertainty.”
In formulating their budget scenarios, the selectmen are also factoring in the town’s unemployment, whch Vanderslice estimates at 15 and 20 percent.
Links to Wilton town budget information:
Comments on the budget scenarios can be emailed to the selectmen at firstname.lastname@example.org.