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From the First Selectman 4/7/17

On Monday, April 17, 2017, at 7:30 pm, the Board of Finance will conduct a Public Hearing at the Center Gym regarding the preliminary operating budget for FY 2018 (7/1/17-6/30/18).  At the hearing, you will learn about the budget and have an opportunity to ask questions and voice your comments, suggestions and concerns.  Following the hearing, the Board of Finance may further modify the budget before its final recommendation to the Town at the Annual Town Meeting on May 15th.

Many hours of work went into the preparation of this budget.  All Town Departments, our two school districts (Amity and Beecher), the Board of Finance and Finance Director and the Board of Selectmen have dedicated themselves to crafting a spending plan that meets the needs and expectations of the Town with minimal impact on taxpayers’ pocket books.  This is not an easy task.

The preliminary budget that will be presented would result in a tax increase of 1.31% for the average Woodbridge household, or about $160.  While all Town functions (this does not include our school systems) saw an overall budget decrease, the Amity and Beecher budgets, while substantially pared down from original requested amounts, increased.  This budget continues our commitment to outstanding education for all our students.

Grand list growth in Woodbridge was de minimis, thus continuing our heavy reliance on real property taxes.  The only opportunity we had over the past several years to have a significant impact on grand list growth was for senior cluster housing at the Country Club of Woodbridge property, a proposal that was vehemently opposed by residents.

Speaking of the Country Club of Woodbridge property, here are some updates.

First, the pool:  Although there is no funding in this year’s budget for the pool, it is possible, though not yet certain, that we will be able to open the pool this summer.  Like most things with Town government, it’s not as simple an issue as it may seem.

If the Town opens the pool there will be costs in addition to staff and supplies.  Pool members have used the clubhouse for the restrooms and changing rooms and the summer grill is located there.  Recently the Town learned that part of the clubhouse’s fire suppression system failed a test.  The Fire Marshal has told us that if the Town wants to use the clubhouse for the summer, we will need to extend the sprinkler system which could cost $8,994.  In addition, the procedure to backwash pool water needs to change in accordance with state regulations.  That will cost $26,163.

The Town will also spend $7,450 to evaluate the water storage tank and the pool’s existing equipment and components to better understand the physical state of the pool and its needs.  We have been assured this can be completed before the start of pool season, assuming the pool does not need extensive and/or expensive work.  The funding for this work would come out of a special Recreation Fund and would not impact the FY ‘18 budget.

Secondly, Make a Wish Foundation is interested in purchasing about 15 acres of the Country Club property.  Make a Wish provides hope and joy to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.  They currently have an office in Trumbull but are looking for a more visible location and would like to create a building that provides a magical setting for the children and families they serve.

I believe that Make a Wish Foundation would be a great addition to our Town.  Its work is inspiring and I’m sure many Woodbridge residents would welcome the opportunity to support its mission and bring some economic relief to the Town.

The Foundation has made a preliminary presentation to the Board of Selectmen.  A sale of the acreage would provide a one-time infusion of cash at the time of purchase, though as a nonprofit, Make a Wish would not be a Woodbridge taxpayer.  Discussions with Make a Wish are preliminary; we did not discuss purchase price or other details pending some indication from the members of the Board of Selectmen that they would be open to considering such a plan.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.  You can reach me at escalettar@woodbridgect.org.  And, please don’t forget to sign up for the Town’s email newsletter at tinyurl.com/WoodbridgeEnews.

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