Final Update and Thoughts.
This is my final Update, as my term ends tomorrow. These updates began as daily evening reports on COVID and transitioned into reports on the work of the town boards/commissions/committees and town departments. Thank you to those who continued reading and for your comments, questions and interest in your local government.
My personal thanks to the town employees and members of elected and appointed board/commission/committees who worked together over the last eight years to ensure Wilton continues to be a great community to live and/or work and/or operate a business. And thank you to those I worked with outside of local town government and during my previous seven years on the Board of Finance. You all made it fun.
Good luck to the newly elected officials. I hope your experience is as interesting as was mine. I’m confident incoming first selectman Toni Boucher will have a smooth transition, as she will be supported by an outstanding team of employees led by Matt Knickerbocker and the department heads, an experienced legal team led by Town Counsel Ira Bloom, a great partner in Dr. Kevin Smith and a dedicated team of fellow Board of Selectmen members-Josh Cole, Bas Nabulsi, Kim Healy and Ross Tartell.
- The Planning and Zoning Commission opened the public hearing on ASML’s application for a 167,000-square-foot expansion of their headquarters for additional manufacturing space. They also opened a requested a zoning change to allow remote parking at 20 Westport Road by employees working at 77 Danbury Road with a shuttle service between the two locations. One location has excess parking, the other a parking shortage. ASML currently has 3,100 employees working over three shifts in Wilton. ASML has been an economic engine that just keeps on giving.
- The Commission held a public hearing and then subsequently adopted the two new overlayzones for the east and west side of Danbury Road between Wolfpit and Pimpewaug Roads as previously discussed.
- The proposed developer of 131 Danbury Road filed an application with the Architectural Review Board for a 208-unit apartment building, which was discussed at their November meeting. The developer also filed an application with the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) which will be discussed at their December 13th meeting.
- Toll Brothers held a pre-application discussion with the Architectural Review Board for their proposed 207-unit proposed apartment building at 15 Old Danbury Road.
School Buildings 10-year Needs Assessment Report and Funding.
A tri-board meeting was held Monday night to hear a presentation from the consultant and to discuss the possible time line for the work and funding. Highlights include,
- Execution of the work plan and the expected municipal work plan are achievable with manageable increases in debt service over a period of 15 years.
- Current debt service, net of bond premium is decreasing in increasing amounts beginning with FY2026 with large maturities expiring in FY2030 and after.
- The estimated cost of the plan net of $26.7 million of state reimbursement grants is $105.4 million.
- Discussion of a proposed School and Municipal Building Improvement Fund to fund some of the work presented. The proposed Fund would be similar to the Infrastructure Improvement Fund maintained by the Board of Selectmen, which captures budget savings, that is subsequently used for infrastructure investments. The concept of a multi-year fund has been discussed among the three boards over the last several years. The fund, as now proposed, has been successfully utilized by other communities, including the Town of Bethel where Town Administrator Matt Knickerbocker previously served as first selectman.
The following meeting materials are available on the town website:
As we transition to a new first selectman, a list of projects of interest that are in-process or awaiting a start date is available here.
Recreation Facility Improvements.
In an effort to support improvements to recreational facilities, the Board of Selectmen
- Agreed to expand the locations for the Banner Program managed by WARF and to allow net revenues to be used for other recreational needs beyond turf. A new Banner Program Policy and revised agreement with WARF will be discussed and adopted at an upcoming meeting.
- Allocated $182,000 of monies in the Infrastructure Improvement Fund to fund restoration and irrigation of the Guy Whitten Field. The Board previously approved the use of ARPA funds for lights at the field. These investments will allow for greater use by both female and male sports groups and reflect the board’s effort to improve the quality of grass fields following the defeat of the proposed turf field at Allen’s Meadow.
Lease for the state-owned land at Allen’s Meadow.
As a result of inquiries by residents, CT DOT continues to perform a review of Allen’s Meadow. The town’s current lease with CT DOT expires at the end of this month. Based on advice from CT DOT, the Board of Selectmen voted to exercise our option for a 5-year extension as we await the completion of CT DOT’s effort and the new lease as discussed.
FY2025 Budget Guidance.
At their most recent meeting, the Board of Finance adopted FY2025 guidance of a 4% mill rate increase prior to revaluation of the grand list. Although the Board didn’t adopt specific guidance for the Boards of Selectmen and Education, they discussed a possible 4% increase in the Board of Education budget. Based on material presented at the meeting, that would translate into Board of Selectmen guidance of a possible 3% budget increase. Matt Knickerbocker and department heads will begin budget development in December with public discussion at the Board of Selectmen meetings in late January through March.
Revalued assessments will be mailed to residents in the first half of December. Values are the result of an approximate nine-month effort that included analysis of data mailers returned by property owners, open building permits and property sales. The mill rate is expected to decrease due to the revaluation. Therefore you should not apply the current mill rate to your revalued assessment to determine your future property taxes.
The revaluation does not change the total dollar amount of taxes collected. That occurs as a result of the approved FY2025 budget.
Instead, the revaluation changes who pays those taxes. How much your property taxes will change from the revaluation will be dependent on your property’s change versus the total grand list change. The total grand list, which includes residential and commercial real estate, personal property and motor vehicles, is expected to increase driven primarily by the increase in residential property values. Although there will be additional grand list growth from new investments in commercial and residential properties. As we have been saying for more than a year, because of the significant increase in residential values and the decline in commercial office building values a shifting of some of the tax burden is expected to occur.
Residents will have the opportunity to meet in-person or remotely with representatives of Vision Appraisal in an informal hearing format to review and ask questions about their new assessed value. Residents will also have the opportunity to appeal their assessed value to the Board of Assessment Appeals. More information is available here.
Modernizing the Board/Commission/Committee Membership.
In an ongoing effort to modernize government, we are rolling out a new online town board/commission/committee membership software. Residents will have access to detailed information about members and vacancies and an online application to volunteer. Look for the link as of December 1st on the Volunteer Town Board/Commission tab midway down on the homepage of the town website here. Critical vacancies include the Inland Wetlands Commission, the Conservation Commission and Board of Selectmen Trustees of the Wilton Library Association Board.