Budget survey shows how Wilton compares to region

The town of Wilton periodically conducts surveys of surrounding towns’ budgets, First Selectman Bill Brennan told the Board of Finance during its Oct. 21 meeting, at which he presented the findings of the most recent surveys of the fiscal year 2015 budgets.

“We try to track the expenditures and town budgets and school budgets — what they’re coming in, year-over-year increase — and we pass those out during the budget season maybe two or three times,” Mr. Brennan told the finance board.

“I don’t know how we inherited this task, but we did and we have been doing it for years. We took on that responsibility of summing up the data and at the end of the whole budget season, coming up with the final numbers.”

Mr. Brennan said the town finished calculating the finalized budget data the week of Oct. 20.

Twenty-one towns in southwestern Connecticut, including Wilton, participate in the budget surveys, said Mr. Brennan, who used this year’s data to create a graph and chart comparing Wilton’s mill rate and budget to that of the other towns.

“I’m not here to interpret them. I’m not here to make any conclusions from them — I’m just saying that often it’s interesting to compare how we’re doing versus other towns,” Mr. Brennan said.

“We have similar costs — materials, compensation, benefits, school expenditures, etc. — but we [also] have differences. Every town is a little different. Every town has different cost pressures at different times.”

Mill rates

According to Mr. Brennan’s mill rate comparison chart, the average mill rate among the 21 towns is 26.45. Bridgeport had the highest mill rate, at 42.19, while Greenwich had the lowest, at 10.97.

“It’s rather amazing because we’re dead in the middle,” Mr. Brennan said. “Our mill rate today is 26.51.”

Mr. Brennan pointed out that Wilton’s year-over-year mill rate increase is 2.01%, while the average mill rate increase among the 21 towns is 3.27%.

Weston had the biggest mill rate increase, 18.38%, while Westport had a decrease of 0.72%.

Town budgets

Mr. Brennan also presented each of the 21 towns’ final year-over-year town budget increases, which, he said, he used to see if Wilton had an “extraordinary, big increase” or if the town was “below the average.”

“There are 10 communities above us and 10 communities below,” Mr. Brennan pointed out. “If you do a straight average — no adjustments — essentially, we’re right in the middle. The average increase is 2.45%. Our increase was 2.65%.”

Darien had the largest town budget increase, at 5.87%, while Shelton had the smallest increase, at 0.01%.

School budgets

Mr. Brennan also broke down the year-over-year increase of each municipality’s school budget.

Darien, once again, had the largest increase in this category, with a 5.9% increase in its school budget, while Redding’s school budget decreased by 1.15%.

“If you look at the school budget numbers, it puts us pretty much in the middle again, although eight communities had higher increases than us and 12 communities had lower increases,” said Mr. Brennan.

“The average increase was 2.64% and Wilton was 2.97%, so we were just a little over the average on that.”