Wilton town budget passes on low turnout

As it has in recent years, the town budget passed last week, not because it received a majority of yes votes — it did — but because fewer than 15% of Wilton’s voters turned out to cast a ballot. When voter turnout does not reach the 15% threshold, the budget passes automatically. This year the turnout was 9.6%. Wilton has 11,236 eligible voters.

For fiscal year 2015, the municipal budget will be $31,766,767, up 2.65% from the previous year. The total school budget will be $78,401,125, up 2.97%. The mill rate will increase 2.0146%, to 26.5132.

Of the 1,074 voters who had their say, either following the Annual Town Meeting on May 6 or the adjourned vote on May 10, a majority were in favor of the budget. There were 668 who voted to “approve” the budget, 372 who voted “no too high” and 17 who voted “no too low.”

In addition, all five capital bonding projects passed. Bonding projects do not pass automatically with a low voter turnout.

The projects passed as follows:

  • Engine-Tanker Fire Truck ($595,000) — 853 yes, 204 no.
  • Road Restoration ($3.464 million) — 885 yes, 170 no.
  • Comstock Community Center Renovations ($9.9 million) — 577 yes, 486 no.
  • Ambler Farm Improvements ($250,000) — 619 yes, 437 no.
  • School Security Upgrades ($500,000) — 695 yes, 359 no.

Key projects

First Selectman Bill Brennan said that although the turnout was “embarrassingly low,” he was still “very pleased” with the way the vote turned out and was particularly gratified the road restoration and Comstock Community Center renovation questions were passed.

“These are key infrastructure projects for the town,” he said. “If we don’t do them now, we will end up doing them later at greater cost.”

Further comments from Mr. Brennan may be found in a column he wrote that appears on page 5A.

The road restoration plan voters approved last week encompasses the final three years of a five-year project that began two years ago. The plan is to repave at least 10 miles of town roads each year for a total of 50 miles. The town owns 127 miles of roads. So far, the town has been ahead of schedule, paving 11 miles in each of the first two years. The bonding project was originally proposed because there was not enough money in the operating budget to allow for repaving more than an average of just 2.8 miles per year from 2007 to 2011.

The Comstock Community Center renovations will encompass much of the aging building, upgrading the heating and ventilation system, adding bathrooms, replacing energy-inefficient windows, and more.

Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly said, “The Wilton Board of Education was pleased to see the results of the town vote. I believe it reflects the town’s acknowledgment of the hard work and dedication put forth by the Board of Education, Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance in developing an appropriate budget.

“The budget may not deliver everything to everyone, but it does a commendable job of delivering what the town needs, and we’re grateful for the efforts of all the town employees and volunteers who worked so hard to develop it.”