EL finance board starts work on budgets

East Lyme — The Board of Finance took its first look Wednesday at the 2014-15 proposed education and town budgets, which together represent $65,854,620, or 4.24 percent more than this year’s budgets.

The town’s general government budget stands at $16,123,688, a 4.28 percent increase. Debt service is $5,105,149, or 6.76 percent more than this year. Capital spending represents $1,283,016, or 29.86 percent more than this year.

The Board of Education budget is $43,342,767, or a 3.34 percent increase.

Both the town and education budgets are less than their initial proposals, after deliberations by their respective boards earlier in the budget process.

First Selectman Paul Formica told the Board of Finance Wednesday that the budget represents a higher increase than in past years, but he looks forward to hearing their feedback and working on reductions. He said he anticipates several areas of the budget that could be decreased. For example, the town will analyze new data on health insurance that could result in additional savings.

Pension payments, workers’ compensation insurance and liability insurance are among areas set to increase in the town’s budget, according to a presentation last month. The budget proposes allocating additional funds to fully staff the new beach and boardwalk and to the building department for increased permit activity.

During its deliberations, the Board of Selectmen had trimmed the general government and capital budgets by $204,551. The changes include $15,000 less to the general government legal account, $14,237 less in benefits, $50,000 less for a proposed skate park and reductions in capital for computer software and various town projects, according to a letter from Formica to the finance board.

Debt service will rise next year mainly because of the regional water interconnection project between the town and New London, he said.

Budget drivers for the education budget include salaries, natural gas, benefits, technology and state mandates, according to a presentation. The budget allocates $378,258 to support the administrator and teacher evaluation plans. New positions, including two deans of students and an assistant principal, are intended to free up some of the principals’ time now that they will have to spend more time on the new evaluations.

The teacher evaluations, under the previous system, used to take principals between 15 and 19 days per year, Superintendent James Lombardo said. In contrast, the full implementation of the state-mandated teacher evaluation plan next year would take between 73 and 81 days per year. Even with proposed flexibility measures, the system would consume between 60 and 73 days of principals’ time.

Board of Finance member Camille Alberti asked if the district had considered hiring consultants instead. Lombardo said the district had found that measure would be more expensive.

A schedule of the finance board budget reviews of town departments is available on the town’s website. The first meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The board’s deliberations on the education budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 27.

k.drelich@theday.com

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