Finance board sets East Lyme budget for 2014-15 at $65M

East Lyme — The overall 2014-15 budget, for both the town and schools, now stands at $65,165,195, or a 3.15 percent increase over this year, after the Board of Finance finished deliberating on Wednesday.

In its deliberations, the finance board trimmed the general government operating budget by $84,685 and the capital expenditures account by $69,330. The general government budget now stands at $16.05 million, while capital fund is $1.21 million. Debt service remains at $5.1 million.

In a 4-2 vote, the finance board cut $550,000 from the proposed Board of Education budget of $43,342,767. The school budget now represents $42,792,767, or about a 2 percent increase over this year.

Some finance members proposed that the school board work on redistricting, since the school's population continues to decline.

Finance board member Camille Alberti, who voted in favor of supporting the school board's budget without cuts, offered one idea. She proposed redistricting for next September and shuttering Niantic Center School until the community decides what to do about its aging elementary schools. She supported placing the money saved in a reserve fund that could be tapped into when the community makes its final decision on the elementary schools.

Superintendent of Schools James Lombardo said that while it would technically be possible to redistrict and close a school that quickly, the board wants to fully involve the community in a thorough process before making a decision.

"This is going to be a decision we are going to have to live with for the next 30 years: what we do with our elementary schools," he said.

Lombardo also said the $550,000 reduction in its proposed budget would have an impact on the district's programs. He said schools would have to lose some teaching positions, sports and other programs.

The finance board approached the general government budget by cutting a total dollar amount from town departments, including $15,000 from the police budget, $10,000 from parks and recreation and $15,000 the from highway department. First Selectman Paul Formica and town department heads will now have the discretion to propose the specific items they would like to remove from their budgets and present it to the finance board at its meeting Monday at 6:30 p.m.

k.drelich@theday.com

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