East Lyme - The first selectman has proposed a town budget to the Board of Selectmen that incorporates capital improvements, a new trust and reductions in debt service, as a first step in budget discussions before presenting a proposal to the Board of Finance in mid-March.
The proposed 2013-14 budgets for the town and Board of Education total $64,840,740, a 4.27 percent increase over the current year, according to a budget document and Feb. 6 letter from First Selectman Paul Formica to the Board of Selectmen posted on the town's website.
The school district's $42,591,731 budget, approved by the school board Monday, represents a 3.34 percent rise over this year's budget and includes $426,000 for full-day kindergarten and $133,000 for the state-mandated teacher evaluation system.
The first selectman's preliminary general-government budget is $22,249,009, a 6.1 percent increase over this year.
Formica said the scope of this year's town budget includes items for continued discussion. Some items are investments for the town, he said, and the question is whether or not the town should make those investments now or in upcoming years.
The proposal incorporates increases, such as $549,777 for capital expenditures and equipment. The 2013-14 year will mark the fifth year of a town vehicle replacement program; Formica said prior purchases provided the town with vehicles capable of getting equipment on the road during last weekend's blizzard.
Proposed public safety increases include $81,341 for a 23rd police officer, a position the town approved this year, and $24,698 for the fire marshal's office to, among other things, conduct more frequent inspections, the letter stated.
Other increases include $47,854 for health benefits, $28,443 for the pension plan and $68,004 to restructure the public works department following the passing of the public works director, Mike Giannattasio.
An additional $140,836 for Parks and Recreation would fund a part-time special events coordinator, as well as staff and maintenance for the boardwalk and beach expected to open later this year. Formica said the beach could generate income in day permits.
The proposed budget also incorporates $500,000 to establish a new health benefits trust for retirees, in accordance with an accounting standards recommendation the town adopted in 2009.
The budget also reflects decreases, such as $175,929 less for debt service and $42,500 less for legal services, according to the letter.
"The biggest priority was to keep any tax increase as minimal as possible while still providing for our needs as a town," he said.
The selectmen will continue to review the budget proposal on Feb. 20.