Selectmen propose less than 1% budget increase
The Board of Selectmen has drafted a $33.8 million town operating and capital budget proposal, a 0.92% increase over the current fiscal year.
The 2020 proposed budget breaks down to $32,801,407 for the town operating budget and $1,009,897 for the town capital budget, a total of $259,305 more than the current fiscal year.
The selectmen discussed the numbers at a budget workshop with town department heads on Saturday, Feb. 9. The draft budget will now go to the Board of Finance for review.
Last October, the finance board issued preliminary “budget guidance” increases of 2% for the selectmen’s operating and capital budget and 1.6% for the Board of Education budget.
“We beat the finance board target. We really just put in what we really need. The average increase over the past four years has been just over one percent,” said First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice.
One main factor which could further influence the budget is the town’s Grand List of taxable property. The list will be released on Feb. 26, and the numbers are expected to go down. “I have no sense of how the finance board will react to a lowered Grand List. Whether they will change what they have given as targets or be inclined to cut budgets, it remains to be seen,” Vanderslice said.
Another budgetary issue facing the town is the growing annual deficit at the Transfer Station, according to Chris Burney, director of public works and facilities.
Burney said the Transfer Station is costing the town $65,000 in expenses associated with recyclables.
“Every town is dealing with this,” Burney said. “The town used to get credit for recyclables, but now it has to pay for them. The city of Stamford had an $800,000 swing, it’s a real problem,” he said.
Starting July 1, Wilton will have to pay approximately $100,000 to handle its recyclables. To mitigate this expense, the town is planning on conducting a study to see if it would make sense to regionalize its transfer station services with the town of Weston.
Much of the town budget is driven by increases in employee wages and step increases for on the job experience.
However, increases in town labor costs have been offset by decreases in other areas, including reductions in OPEB and pensions due to the town’s aggressive funding levels.
Over the past few years, the town has combined a number of jobs and eliminated ones that weren’t necessary, said Vanderslice. “We have always looked at opportunities for consolidation of positions. When there is a vacancy, we say do we need this position,” she said.
Another driver is an increase in group insurance costs which are expected to go up as much as 8%. To mitigate those costs, the town is looking into the possibility of joining the state’s medical plan or a potential regional medical plan being studied by WestCOG.
Efficiency is the name of the game with the town budget, according to Vanderslice. “We look at everything to make sure we are doing it in the most efficient manner. We don’t budget for it if we don’t need it,” she said.
Editor's Note: This story was corrected in reference to the cost of recyclables.