WILTON – The Wilton Select Board and Finance Committee met on Monday evening to finalize the budget proposal for the fiscal year 2023-2024 in advance of the annual town meeting in June.
The meeting opened at 6 p.m. at the Wilton Town Office. Town Manager Perry Ellsworth presented the proposed budget with an increase of $112,232. Many of the increases are related to employee compensation, meaning they are predetermined in employee contracts and are therefore unnegotiable.
The selectboard and finance committee recommendations were similar and both ultimately approved each item.
The Police Department budget was proposed to be $778,916, an increase from last year due to an increase in the union contract and funding for a new officer. Ellsworth shared his hopes that a grant for a detective to serve domestic abuse issues will come through, meaning the financial load will be lessened.
The Fire Department budget was approved for $238,600, taking into consideration the need for new fire trucks to replace older vehicles that will arise in the next few years.
The budget for North Star Ambulance was approved as $26,189 in comparison to $21,407 last year. The substantial increase is a result of the emergency medical assistance costs that have risen dramatically, according to Ellsworth.
The Highway Department was given a $1,184,650 budget, a 9% increase from last year due to the escalating cost of diesel fuel, sand, and paving among other expenses. This amount also takes into consideration a new truck for the town.
The Capital paving account was allotted $629,000, including $250,000 from the Undesignated Fund.
The Recreation budget decreased from last year, at $66,550. This is due to the fact that the director retired this year and is currently working part-time with no benefits. They happily approved $51,480 for the Parks and Facilities budget. Members of both the board and finance committee spoke highly of Kineowatha Park and its value for the town, commenting on how busy it has been recently.
They discussed the Wilton Lake Dam, which is in desperate need of repairs. They approved $10,000 on top of the $20,000 already in the account. Ellsworth remarked that the town will likely be spending that money soon, as the dam requires attention.
They approved $15,000 towards the Blueberry Festival, most of which will pay for an events coordinator. Ellsworth shared his disapproval of the way the Blueberry Festival finances are currently organized: “This, in my opinion, is a nightmare and we ought to find someone and give them x amount of dollars to run it.” He proposed saving the remaining revenue for excess expenses. Both the board and the committee expressed their hope that the festival will eventually be self-generating and fund itself.
The budget will be presented to the public for a vote at the town meeting in June.
This meeting was recorded by Mt. Blue TV and is available for viewing online at MtBlueTV.org