Vanderslice enforces policy to keep departments within budget

As the Wilton Fire Department found out, going over budget has its costs — especially when First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice is in charge.

The fire department was over budget $82,000 in fiscal year 2017, according to the year-end financial report.

“My policy is that if you’re over budget one year, you’re making it up the next year,” Vanderslice told the Board of Finance at its Oct. 18 meeting, “so they’re going to be under budget by at least $82,000 [in fiscal year 2018].”

Overtime was the main cause of the fire department going over budget, said Vanderslice, adding that “because of sick time and some other things, they ran over.”

Despite the news of the fire department, the financial report otherwise brought “some unexpected good news,” said Board of Finance Chair Jeff Rutishauser.

As of June, the town’s year-end fund balance is $15 million and its excess fund balance is expected to come in around $800,000, according to Chief Financial Officer Anne Kelly-Lenz.

“The actual year-end fund balance is coming in a shade over $19 million right now,” said Rutishauser. “This is good news, especially in a tough year.”

As a result of vacancies, the town also saved $700,000 in wages and benefit costs in 2015-16.

“It’s a nice $700,000 in savings,” said Vanderslice, “but that’s not a permanent reduction because a number of [vacant] positions will be filled.”

Police Department

Of the $700,000 in savings, $300,000 came from the police department, which had vacant police officer and central dispatch positions.

Two of the vacancies didn’t get filled until the winter and the others were “held off,” said Vanderslice, “because we wanted to see what happened with the budget.”

The vacancies resulted in a lot of overtime, said Vanderslice, and although it saved money, it “burned people out.”

“Everybody likes overtime, but not an excessive amount of overtime,” she said.

“We went ahead and hired an officer and we’re filling the dispatch [position], so we’re not going to see these kinds of savings again.”

Environmental Affairs

When Pat Sesto left the Environmental Affairs Department, Vanderslice said, “we didn’t promote Mike Conklin to that position until more than halfway into the year.”

“We waited to see if we needed to replace Mike’s position because things had slowed down in Inland Wetlands,” said Vanderslice, “but now that we have a lot more activity … that job is posted and we’re filling that as soon as we can.”

Department of Public Works

Vanderslice said there’s been a vacancy in the Department of Public Works (DPW) Department for a while, but “we’re looking at it this year to decide whether or not to fill it.”

Because of the light snow year, Vanderslice said, the unfilled position wasn’t a problem. However, she said, the impact of not being fully staffed is beginning to show.

For example, in the summer, she said, “you see a lot of stop signs that are beginning to get growth on them.”

“I’ve been getting comments from the public, so we’ll see what we end up doing with that [position] this year.”

Vanderslice added that the medical rate the town had to pay for DPW was lower than budgeted.

Although it took a while, Vanderslice said, a parks and grounds vacancy was finally filled this year.

Other savings

There were vacancy savings in the selectman’s office at town hall — including a vacant human resources position, which has been unfilled for a while because “we just haven’t found the right person to fill that job,” said Vanderslice.

The town also saved $300,000 between workers compensation and “another HR reserve” that it didn’t need, said Vanderslice, and the Comstock Community Center renovation saved the town about $60,000.

Although the amounts were small, Vanderslice said, the town also saw savings in EMS, the Board of Finance and Economic Development Commission, which came in under budget.

Education and Selectmen boards

The Board of Education has yet to close its books, so its numbers in the report are estimated, said Vanderslice, but “right now, they’re saying they need a little bit over $900,000 in the excess cost grant.

“We’ve received over $1.2 million,” she said, “but that number could change as they continue closing their books.”

Once it’s done with its encumbrances and assignments, said Vanderslice, the Board of Selectmen is going to be favorable “just over $1 million.”

According to Kelly-Lenz, the town will file its books by Dec. 31.