Wilton selectmen brace for cuts to $33.6 M proposal amid uncertainty over tax revenues

Wilton Town Hall Wednesday, December 4, 2018, in Wilton, Conn.

Wilton Town Hall Wednesday, December 4, 2018, in Wilton, Conn.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — The Wilton Board of Selectmen has voted to approve a $33.6 million operating budget request for the town for the next fiscal year, but say cuts to the proposal are likely. 

The Board unanimously approved this amount, along with a $1.06 million capital budget request. This budget represents a 2.15 percent increase over last year’s budget. Separately, the school board has proposed a $91.8 million education budget that would increase spending by 5.99 percent, which would be the largest increase in at least eight years. 

However, there are potential cuts ahead, and the board is already bracing for them.

“We’ll likely have a budget cut,” said First Selectwomen Lynne Vanderslice in reference to a cut of $80,000 from the Department of Public Works for contracted services. These funds were transferred to the capital budget to help fund the dredging of the pond at Cider Mill.

At a previous BOS meeting, Vanderslice said she was anticipating cuts from the Board of Finance who will review the proposed budget next and hold a public hearing in March. 

“ As I look at where we’re going to possibly end up…I think we’ll end up in a place that’ll be unacceptable to the Board of Finance, the residents and frankly to all of us,” she said at a Feb. 15 Board of Selectmen meeting.  “As we’re looking at the budget, we have to expect the Board of Finance is going to cut requests we’ve asked for. ”

Some new requests in the proposed budget include the addition of a new police officer to the Wilton Police Department to help with traffic enforcement and more engineering resources to allow the town to continue to find and use future grant funding. Wilton has received $26 million in grant funding since 2019, helping the town save $1.8 million in debt service costs.

The proposed budget also funds the town’s retirement plan at 109 percent.

The proposal is still subject to change, based not only on the Board of Finance, but on shifting monetary factors, particularly the amount of tax revenue the town may bring in. While some, like the town’s conveyance fees, may be higher than usual, others may decline.  Like many other communities, Wilton saw an increase in home sales and car purchases over the last few years, leading to a boom in revenue from motor vehicle supplements and conveyance fees. Now, the town is seeing a bit of a comedown.

Still, Vanderslice said officials anticipate at least $800,000 in revenue from conveyance fees, an amount that is less than the $1.39 million that came in during 2021, but still represents some of the highest amount of revenue coming into the town budget. And while residential home sales have been down, there have been two commercial buildings sold, with a potential third going up for sale, which could help boost the town’s tax revenues.

The mill rate for the upcoming fiscal year has not been set yet, with no projection available due to shifting interest rates and other undetermined factors. The Board did not mention a projected rate during the meeting.