Nonprofits brace for possible cuts

There are no current plans for changes to the Board of Selectmen’s support for nonprofit organizations in town, although First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice and other selectmen have warned that if cuts must be made, job reductions will be avoided at the expense of the nonprofits.

Vanderslice, in particular, said at a Board of Selectmen meeting March 6 that town departments do not have the ability to conduct fund-raisers to cover salary costs.

What that means to nonprofits like Wilton Library and the Trackside Teen Center, among a few others, is that they are buckling up, preparing themselves for the worst.

But they don’t appear worried.

“We’ve been talking with the selectmen, and my board is looking to increase our money through fund raising and corporate donations. There is a whole gamut of opportunities out there, and we are working to reduce our town dependency,” said Mark Ketley, executive director of Trackside.

Trackside offers after-school programs for middle and high school students, serves as a meeting place for a number of Wilton agencies, may be rented by Wilton and outside groups, and has a fully licensed kitchen that accommodates teen visitors and special events.

Other nonprofits that receive support from the municipal budget include Ambler Farm, the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County. Officials of those organizations did not return a reporter’s request for comments on the budget.

The library leadership was the only other nonprofit to respond, saying they are prepared to do more fund raising. The library has asked for a 0.5% increase.

“Through the public/private partnership with the town, Wilton Library funds 25% of its budget through donations,” said Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of the library. “These donations provide for 100% of all the materials patrons borrow and use in our collections, databases and even our programming. As such, fund raising has always been a mainstay of the library — whether it’s the important book sales we hold throughout the year, the wonderful benefit we hold in the spring, or the annual appeals — we will always be fund-raising. Fortunately, we have a community that values how essential Wilton Library is as the intellectual and cultural center of the town.”

The Board of Selectmen is asking the Board of Finance for a $1.03-million increase, 3.20% over the current year’s $32.20 million. Seventy-five percent of that is just to cover salary increases, the selectmen said.