Conflicting voices at Annual Town Meeting

The majority of those who made comments at the Annual Town Meeting on Tuesday, May 5, spoke out against at least one of Wilton’s budgets — capital, educational or municipal.
But whether that vocal opposition correlates to a failed budget vote remains to be seen.
“I’m against this budget, and next year’s budget, and the next year’s budget,” said Wiltonian Mark Gressle.
“The reason is, we’re on the wrong trajectory,” he said, referring to his belief that the town’s platform for budgeting revolves around a concept that “more spending on schools [leads to] better schools [leads to] better property values.”
According to last night’s meeting, Wilton’s budgets haven’t been voted down in 19 years.
“Going forward, I’m not convinced,” he said.
Marianne Acampora, another Wilton resident, added that although she doesn’t completely understand how the budgets work, compared to homeowners in Darien, “my investment in this town has not paid off.”
Not all were so disappointed with this year’s budget, however.
Referring to the boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education, longtime resident Ray Moskow said, “For 45 years I’ve come to meetings here, and I say thank you for giving your time and effort. This is the most qualified, intelligent group of informed people that know what this town needs,” he said.
“I say support the budget.”
A number of residents spoke to support a change in the way the town’s budget changes are presented during the Town Meeting.
Some suggested in future years the changes be compared to those of surrounding towns, so residents could understand how “competitive” Wilton is.
“We need to be very cognizant of what neighboring communities offer for their tax base,” said Marianne Gustafson.

Budget details

Up for vote and discussion at the Annual Town Meeting were municipal and education budgets totaling $124.2 million, and three bonding items totaling $990,000.
At a 2.06% increase over last year, the municipal budget comes in at $32 million.
The education budget is slated to rise by 1.98% from last year, to almost $80 million.
Voting on fiscal year 2016’s budget proposals began Tuesday, May 5, directly after the Annual Town Meeting.
Adjourned voting on the budget will continue Saturday, May 9, from 9 to 6 in the Clune Center at Wilton High School.
If fewer than 15% of electors participate in the budget vote, it passes by default.
All voters registered in Wilton may vote in this referendum, regardless of whether they own property in town. All U.S. citizens liable to the town for taxes on real estate, or a motor vehicle with an assessment of at least $1,000, may vote.
Absentee ballots will be available from the town clerk at town hall through Friday, May 8, from 8:30 to 4:30. All absentee ballots must be returned to the town clerk’s office by 4:30 on Friday, May 8.


Among bonding requests this year are funds to study the north Wilton firehouse ($90,000), repaving lots at Middlebrook School and Wilton High School ($400,000), and replacing “chillers” in Middlebrook’s HVAC system ($500,000).
Bonding issues regarding the repair of parking lots and the replacement of chillers encountered no disapproval, though a few residents worried about a review of the north Wilton firehouse.
“How can one intelligently judge the prudence of spending $90,000 on planning documents that may or may not be used?” asked David Bloomer, saying he worried about a large expenditure on planning firehouse renovations that have not been approved.
Selectman Jim Saxe countered that argument.
You can’t get a budget if you don’t pay to review the current state of the firehouse, he responded.