It’s time to vote
This year’s municipal budget hearing lasted barely 15 minutes, just enough time for the members of the Board of Finance to make a presentation.
Only one woman entered a question.
The education budget hearing was just as sparsely attended, with only a few people making any comment.
Every year, throughout the year, citizens of Wilton passively complain that voter turnout is too low to force a competitive budgeting atmosphere. Last year, the town’s budgets were approved by default, as only 9.6% of eligible voters turned out to have their say.
Could this be the year those complaints go by the wayside? Only if residents make a point to head out to the polls.
Up for a vote next week are municipal and education budgets totaling $124.2 million, and three bonding items totaling $990,000.
The vote for fiscal year 2016’s budget proposals will take place on Tuesday, May 5, directly following the Annual Town Meeting at Middlebrook School’s auditorium. The Town Meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.
Adjourned voting on the budget will continue that Saturday, May 9, from 9 to 6 in the Clune Center at Wilton High School.
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 beginning on Wednesday, May 6, 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.
According to Wilton’s charter, the proposed budget automatically passes if voter turnout is less than 15%. However, bonding questions are passed only by a majority of those voting.
At a 2.06% increase over last year, the municipal budget comes in at $32 million.
First Selectman Bill Brennan said earlier this year that, with town workers experiencing 2.5% wage growth, having a budget that grew only 2% was excellent.
When all is said and done, the municipal budget proposed by the Board of Selectmen this year comes in at $32.4 million. Of that, $31.1 million is set for operating expenses, and $1.3 million is set for operating capital.
Operating expenses are day-to-day costs associated with running the town, like salaries and fuel. Operating capital is an amount of money used to fund investment in longer-term purchases, like new tractors or police cruisers.
Click here for more information on the municipal budget.
The education budget is slated to rise by 1.98% from last year, to almost $80 million.
The proposed operating budget “strengthens our district’s capacity to utilize strategies that improve teaching and learning, while reflecting a desire to be fiscally responsible,” Superintendent Kevin Smith said in January.
Some education plans newly supported by this budget include increased time for staff collaboration and professional learning, providing laptop computers to all classroom teachers, and restructuring critical instruction and curricular support systems.
Seventy-eight percent of the total budget supports salaries ($49,195,566) and benefits ($13,825,967).
Click here for more information about the proposed education budget.
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).
Click here for more information on the bonding proposals.
— Some information for this article was provided by the Wilton League of Women Voters