Wilton proposed budget includes increases for employee wages

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WILTON – On the evening of Monday, May 15, the Wilton select board and finance committee met to continue their discussions on the budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. In the meeting that lasted over two hours, they discussed the rest of the budget in order to move on to finalizing it at the next meeting. In just two weeks, the budget must be complete in time for it to go into the town report.

They began by reviewing requests from the Police Department, Fire Department, Parks and Recreation, Conservation, Highway Department, Recycling and Transfer Center, and Cemeteries. Most categories requested increases that a representative from each explained to the board and committee members at length. Interim Police Chief Ethan Kyes explained the much-needed efforts to hire new officers supported by the proposed budget.

Fire Chief Sonny Dunham spoke about purchasing new fire trucks within the next few years, as the current trucks are almost two decades old. In order to think about making that purchase down the line, the town must start putting money aside now, Chief Dunham said. “If we were going to do it today, it would be three years before we’d even see it,” he said.

Towards the conclusion of the budget review, Town Manager Perry Ellsworth admitted that he believes the budget needs major adjustments before it will pass the vote. “I know that what we have on paper is not going to pass,” he said. “Without substantial increase from someplace.”

A lot of the proposed increases fall under employee compensation categories, which cannot be changed due to the fact that these numbers have been previously determined by employee contracts.

“The cost of keeping good employees continues to escalate on a regular basis,” Ellsworth commented. He also remarked that it is difficult to hire new employees without being able to offer them more substantial pay. The select board and finance committee discussed which requests are completely necessary and which can be pushed until next year’s budget. Despite original hopes to begin the voting on budget finalization, they came to the conclusion that they need time to prepare and pushed it to the next meeting.

The select board and the finance committee made plans to meet again next Monday, May 22 at 6 p.m. to finalize the budget for the voters.

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