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Board of Finance Reviews Town's Proposed 2013 Budget

Wilton’s current mill rate of 20.85 would increase by about 1.98 percent if the Selectmen’s budget is approved.

After meeting Tuesday to review the town’s proposed 2013 budget prepared by the Board of Selectmen, members of the Board of Finance spent Wednesday evening questioning First Selectman William F. Brennan and department heads about specific items they’ve requested be funded.

Overall, the finance board’s members seemed in agreement with the proposed budget, although towards the end of the meeting board chairman Warren Serenbetz told Brennan that, with the current year’s combined operating and capital budgets up 3.4 percent from the previous year, and the proposed 2013 combined budgets to be up 2.71 percent from this year, the town will be spending more than the increase in the U.S. consumer price index — currently 2.4 percent — two years in a row.

(The core CPI index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.1 percent in February and is up 2.2 percent over the last 12 months,
according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Brennan replied that after three “lean years” of cutting, there are in any of our budgets, and residents “continue to expect high levels of service and a quality of life.”

As proposed, the town’s operating budget next year would be $29.4 million, an increase of 3.86 percent from this year, and the capital budget would be $1.2 million, a reduction of 19.93 percent from this year.

During a presentation of the proposed budget, Brennan said the major drivers of the capital budget increase are employee contractural compensation increases, increased medical insurance costs, and increased pension and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) contributions.

Capital budget increases, Brennan said, are the result of vehicle and equipment replacement, new information systems, tax assessor revaluation costs, and police and fire safety equipment purchases.

The town’s current mill rate of 20.85 mills would increase by 1.98 percent to about 21.26 mills if the selectmen’s budget is approved in its current form. (A mill rate is equal to $1 of tax for each $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.)

The goal of the Board of Finance is to cap mill rate increases to 1.75 percent per year.

Brennan told the board that of 153 authorized positions, the town employs 149 people, which is the lowest number of employees per 1,000 residents, compared to Greenwich, Ridgefield, Westport, Trumbull, New Canaan, Darien and Wilton.

Brennan noted that, unlike most years, the town is currently in contract negotiations with all four of its employee unions, so the proposed budget is based on incomplete knowledge of next year’s salary costs.

Although the intent of the meeting was to ask questions about the proposed operating budget, much of the session dealt with the selectmen’s proposed five-year special , which they intend to fund through the capital budget by selling bonds.

Brennan said the town has not authorized any bonded capital expenses in four years, but for 2013 it intends to issue bonds for six projects, including the road paving program.

He said the program would spend $1.7 million a year over five years to enable the town to catch up on repairing its roads, 40 percent of which have not been repaved for 20 or more years.

Board member Lynne Vanderslice said she thought the proposed paving program was underfunded, and questioned why the town wasn’t more ambitious in the miles of road it wants to improve each year.

Brennan said the plan was based on the fact the town has a number of capital projects it needs to fund, and how much of a tax increase Wilton residents will accept at this time.

Our original cost for the program was higher, Brennan said, “but this is prudently balanced and reasonable,” adding, “This is a good start to fix the problem.”

During an interview, Brennan said Wilton has a triple-A credit rating and has never had a budget voted down by the town’s residents in the last ten years.

In response to a question from board member Gail Lavielle, who participated in the meeting by phone, Serenbetz said the town is well under its bonding capability.

“It’s phenomenal how much we could bond if we wanted to,” Serenbetz said.

A public hearing on the proposed 2013 Board of Education budget will be held March 26 at 7:30 p.m. at . The next night, a public hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Middlebrook School on the proposed 2013 selectmen’s budget.

Another Wilton Mom March 24, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Can you really be a "Mr. Gumby"?
Another Wilton Mom March 24, 2012 at 03:46 AM
You have your passions. What do you DO about it? What do you DO to get others involved? I hope you are making a much bigger difference offline than you are online! If so, why not highlight that? Get others motivated!
Eustace Tilley March 24, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Well, I am not green but I am flexible when it comes to ideas on ways to shrink government...I owe you a coffee and maybe you want to join our periodic meetings.
Another Wilton Mom March 24, 2012 at 04:11 AM
I don't know what your periodic meetings are, but I'm honored that you asked. I'm always willing to learn more. But, ETP - why can't you publicly thank volunteers who worked hard to make some cost concessions and innovations happen? Only knowing you online, I'm surprised you are not more supportive of the changes that have been made. Why can't you compliment those changes?
Another Wilton Mom March 24, 2012 at 04:12 AM
(some of those changes were hard to win!)
Eustace Tilley March 24, 2012 at 06:09 PM
See you at the meeting Monday and/or Tuesday evening
fred smith March 25, 2012 at 11:47 PM
There is a tremendous amount of waste in the BOE budget. In 1975 the high school had 1600 students, with one principal and 1 vice-principal and 4 guidance counselors. Today we have 1200 students (25% less) with 3 vice-principals (200% more) and 6 guidance counselors (50% more). The fewer students the high school has, the more they increase the administration. Please don't try to tell me that there is no room to cut the budget.
fred smith March 25, 2012 at 11:52 PM
BOE administrators get 20 sick days per year, How many do you get in your job? What has never made any sense to me is why do BOE administrators get 5 more sick days per year than teachers? 15 days for teachers is double what the average company gives. But at least the teachers can argue that they are around sick kids all day, What reason is there for administrators who are not around sick kids all day to get more than teachers? No room to make cuts in the BOE budget? How about starting with sick days for the administration.?
fred smith March 25, 2012 at 11:54 PM
No room to make cuts in the town budget? Our first selectman is the 6th highest paid mayor in the state. More than any of our major cities. As much as $25,000 more than the surrounding towns. How about bringing this positions salary in line with surrounding towns?
Amo Probus March 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Superintendant's salary: Wilton 216,000 Stamford 219,000 Bridgeport 229,000 Now, think about the relative complexity of running a suburban school compared to running complex and much larger city schools, number of teachers, number of students, number of administrators etc etc...and don't even think about comparing outcomes without the relative demographic and socio-economic analysis. Wilton spoils its employees with excessive pay and perks.
Amo Probus March 26, 2012 at 12:57 AM
And, if the elected board members were SINCERE in their self proclaimed commitment to cutting costs...why have they NOT asked for public input?
Stop wasting money March 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Janitors in the schools in Wilton make about $50,000 per year. Does your company pay it's janitors that much? Okay, maybe the unions in NYC get that much but I am talking about your average company in this State. Of course the BOE will use the excuse that it is in the contract and they can't do anything about it. But who approved the contract if not the BOE? Why not eliminate all those positions and hire an outside contractor for janitorial services. I wonder how much we could save doing this?
Cut costs March 27, 2012 at 02:24 PM
The HR director for the Schools gets paid about $50,000 more than what a comparable position in the private sector pays. Wilton does pay far too much.
Mary K. March 29, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Do you remember 1975? It was the beginning of the Bicentennial. I used to love those Bicentennial Minutes. Here's one, from 1975: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUoto1lsX50. It's awesome. It's all about a bunch of British soldiers trying to cut down a tree. One of them fell and died. That was sad, but the point is, Wilton had trees in 1975 and in 1775 and we still have trees now.
Mary K. March 29, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Didn't you read the interview with Bruce Likely? He said he wants everyone to get in touch with the Board of Ed. I've been watching old meetings on the website and Bruce Likely always asks people to call or email or visit the website. It's kind of cute. It's like his signature trademark way of signing off at the end of meetings. You should really watch some of their meetings. Mr. Likely is always so considerate of everyone. The teachers and guidance counselors must really like him. The Board of Ed is so lucky to have him as chair. I don't think it's nice to question his sincerity. He's always talking about cutting costs.
Amo Probus March 29, 2012 at 10:53 AM
Hey, I have an idea that solves two problems. Replace the overpaid janitors with the overwrought PTA members and other parents in town. It will give the PTA something to do besides arguing about parking spaces, save more money then the PTA can ever raise at bake sales or carnivals, show their children they are truly involved, set an example of substantive community involvement, ensure high standards are established and the list goes on and on. No job is too humble - there is honor in all labor. What say you Debbie, Mary K, Loves Wilton et al? I'm sure some seniors would volunteer too. (PS parents cleaned the school I went to as a child)
Ancient Wilton Mom March 29, 2012 at 11:34 AM
When would I have time to clean the schools? I can't find a parking space!
Ancient Wilton Mom March 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Also, I limit myself to meaningless community involvement. Other kinds of involvement require a large time commitment, and don't leave room for tennis, Starbucks, and manicures.
Amo Probus March 29, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Walk you lazy lump.
Mary K. March 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Calling me overwrought isn't nice. It just doesn't sound nice. I don't even know what it means but I think Amo is criticizing me. And I don't think there is anything wrong with parents being janitors. One of my best friends' father was a janitor. I wasn't embarrassed at all. I don't know any parents who are janitors now but I would totally let my kids play with their kids. I could even drive them to soccer practice. I would also be willing to clean the schools but I never really thought about it before. Cleaning products are really toxic. Do the schools use green products? I only use safe cleaning products at home. Well, I guess I should say I only allow safe cleaning products in my house, since I'm not the one using them. But Gabriela really appreciates how sensitive I am about toxic chemicals. I never thought to ask about the schools. And also, the town hall and library cleaning people. And the kids! Oh, dear, I will have to make some phone calls today to see what kind of cleaning products they use at Miller-Driscoll.
Ancient Wilton Mom March 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Walk from home? I couldn't wear my workout clothes to clean, so I would have to carry a change of clothes, plus shoes, because I wouldn't want to ruin my Nikes.
Ancient Wilton Mom March 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Kitty, get a dictionary.
Ancient Wilton Mom March 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM
And of course, Amo is criticizing you. He's criticizing me too. And poor Loves Wilton.
Mary K. March 29, 2012 at 12:35 PM
At least he didn't call me a lazy lump.
Amo Probus March 29, 2012 at 06:03 PM
MK That would be "She didn't call me a lazy lump."
pay attention March 29, 2012 at 07:00 PM
No he makes $25,000 more in today's dollars. What has 1975 got to do with what he is paid today?
pay attention March 29, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Of course he said he wants everyone to get in touch. What do you expect him to say, that he does not want to hear from anyone? Saying get in touch and actually listening to ideas and following through on them are two different things.
pay attention March 29, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Hire a private company to do the same job for a lot less. Where would you rather spend money, on over-paid janitors or on computers?
pay attention March 29, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Are Mary and Debbie being sarcastic or are they clueless?
Amo Probus March 29, 2012 at 07:40 PM
PA Yes Mary and Debbie are sarcastic and clueless...too much time under the hairdryer

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