Six Wilton projects proposed for bonding

Taxpayers who attend the Annual Town Meeting May 7 will be asked to consider six proposed capital bonded projects for fiscal year 2013. The projects will be presented tonight, March 28, at a public hearing that begins at 7:30 at Middlebrook School auditorium. The Board of Selectmen’s budget will also be presented tonight.

The capital projects to be bonded total $2.524 million, and four of them relate to the extension of natural gas lines by Yankee Gas.

They include:

• $570,000 — Replace 57-year-old Comstock boiler and heating system.

• $332,000 — Comstock building renovations.

• $220,000 — Replace 46-/50-year-old Gilbert and Bennett Community Center boiler and heat distribution system.

• $183,000 — Convert two boilers at Wilton High School to operate on natural gas.

• $575,000 — Replace two 30-/40-year-old boilers at Cider Mill School and set them up to operate on natural gas.

• $644,000 — Replace two 30-/40-year-old boilers and set them up to operate on natural gas.

The Annual Town Meeting will commence at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, in the Clune Center. At the conclusion, taxpayers may cast their votes on the budget and bonded projects. There will be an adjourned vote at the Clune Center on Saturday, May 11, 8 to 6.

Town budget

At a March 20 joint meeting between Wilton’s finance and selectmen boards, First Selectman Bill Brennan presented his board’s annual budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, cumulatively set at $31.4 million, a 3.62% jump on the previous year.

Mr. Brennan introduced his proposal with an outline of the responsibilities and objectives of the Board of Selectmen, which he said helped guide various departments in trimming their budgets to the “bare essentials.”

“In brief, our responsibility is to submit a budget that meets the needs of the departments that provide the public safety, the security, and various services to the community,” he said.

The four primary objectives in drafting the budget, according to Mr. Brennan, were maintaining townwide safety services, upgrading Wilton’s infrastructure, following through on the town’s “commitment to energy conservation,” and developing a cost-effective budget to meet those goals.

Using a comparative four-year profile of the most recent selectmen’s budgets, Mr. Brennan demonstrated that, over the period, there has been an average increase of 1.36%, which he said was “considerably less than the inflation rate.”

Over the same period, the consumer price index — a standard measure of U.S. inflation, which is determined by tracking the prices on an assortment of household goods — was about 2.1%.

The bulk of the selectmen’s proposal was assigned to various operating expenses, which collectively add up to $30.1 million; the remainder of the budget, $1.1 million, is assigned to capital projects.

Of the operating budget, employee compensation is the primary driver at $13.1 million (43% of operating total); employee benefits are at $7.6 million (26%); spending on community organizations, $4.0 million (13%); and the remainder is for facilities ($1.7 million, 6%) and miscellaneous expenses ($3.7 million, 12%). Community organizations include Wilton Library, Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County, and Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Capital projects

The capital projects include $476,200 for vehicle and equipment replacement:

• Replace six police cars.

• Replace two mowers (Parks & Grounds).

• Replace one large dump truck (DPW).

• Replace one small dump truck (DPW).

• Replace one plow (DPW).

• Acquire a mini-excavator (DPW).

• Replace one CERT response and tow vehicle.

• Replace two thermal imaging cameras (Fire).

Also included in the capital project expenditures is $491,800 for computer hardware and software and a new telephone system.

In the area of public safety, $17,500 has been earmarked to replace radar equipment and to replace mobile data terminals, which are computers in police patrol cars.

The greatest operating expense variance on the current year is employee compensation, which is proposed to jump $0.6 million, or 5.5%. Higher costs are partially a result of the need to fill a police officer position, and to fill the proposed new position of director of facility and energy management.

The justification for a facilities director, according to Mr. Brennan, is to oversee capital projects and to avoid expensive “surprises.” As for unforeseen facility costs, Mr. Brennan referred to the recent and unexpected replacement of boilers at Middlebrook and Cider Mill schools.

The Board of Finance will conduct mill rate meetings at town hall Tuesday to Thursday, April 2-4, each at 7:30 p.m.