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Ledyard - Mayor John Rodolico is proposing a 6.6 percent increase in the proposed $53.4 million budget for 2014-15 which he said is being "overwhelmingly" driven by rising employee expenses.
The budget, which was submitted to the Town Council for review on Monday, includes a $22.7 million general government budget - 11 percent higher than this year's - and a $30.7 million Board of Education budget, which represents a 3.47 percent increase.
The proposal would call for a tax rate increase of 2.4 mills. This would be the second year in a row that taxpayers would see an increase if the budget proposal is approved. Last year, the tax rate increased by three-tenths of a mill to 28.22 mills for the first increase in four years.
In a letter to Town Council Chairman Linda Davis, Rodolico said an increase in the value of taxable property in town for 2013 yielded an additional $251,000 in revenue, while state aid increased by $864,000.
Still, projected costs for employee health insurance have increased by 46 percent, while retirement funding is set to increase by 22 percent. Without these increases, Rodolico wrote, the general government budget would have increased by 1.9 percent.
A 6.6 percent budget increase is significant, Rodolico said.
"I think the voters are going to have to look at the cost of their government in its present form," he said, adding, "I think we also have to be very mindful of the impact on our businesses in town. Ledyard does not have a significant amount of commercial development, and the commercial development that we do have I think is very vulnerable to these types of tax increases."
The proposal also combines some positions in and across town departments. While the only position eliminated is a police officer position that Rodolico said has not been filled in several years, some positions will be "reformulated," he said, with some hours increasing and others decreasing, leading to a slight reduction in the number of full-time equivalent positions.
"We're really looking for a more flexible workforce in order to support some of our offices that have one or two people," he said.
Those include the Town Council office, the Town Clerk's office, the offices of the tax collector and assessor, the mayor's office and some commissions, including the Zoning Board of Appeals.
After three work sessions this month with council members, a public hearing will be held April 21. The Town Council is expected to finalize the budget in early May. A town meeting on the budget is slated for May 19, with a referendum the following day.