Lyme voters pass $11 million budget

Lyme — Residents at the annual town meeting on Thursday approved the 2014-15 budget, gave the town the go-ahead to accept a potential open space parcel, and supported several amendments to town ordinances.

The town budget for upcoming fiscal year stands at $11,011,206, with $9,361,845 in operating expenses and $1,649,361 in capital expenses.

Following the meeting, the Board of Finance set the tax rate at 17 mills, an increase from the current rate of 14 mills. The increase is primarily driven by the 2013 revaluation, in which real estate assessments decreased by about 15.6 percent. Properties will therefore be taxed at a lower assessed value.

Increases for next year's spending plan include a slight increase in the Lyme-Old Lyme education budget; a more aggressive maintenance of town roads; and funding, along with Old Lyme, the Lymes' senior center director as a full-time position.

The 50 or so residents at the meeting also approved an amended ordinance that would allow the Board of Selectmen to appoint constables, in accordance with new state law. Currently, residents vote for constables in the general election.

The other amended ordinance, also due to changes in state law, authorizes the selectmen to appoint members to the three-member Board of Assessors. Members are currently elected onto the board.

In addition, residents approved an amendment to the 1981 ordinance that established the Lyme Cemeteries Trust that would allow the town to maintain cemeteries through fund assets rather than simply interest.

After some discussion, residents also voted to allow the town to accept a 2.87-acre parcel on Selden Road with limited waterfront access, which is contingent upon a pending deal.

The Lyme Land Conservation Trust is pursuing a state open space grant as well as private donations to acquire the waterfront parcel on Selden Road and transfer it to the town. The town had to pay for two appraisals for the grant application but would not pay any additional funds to acquire the property.

First Selectman Ralph Eno said if the deal goes through, the town eventually plans to install a limited parking area and a trail down to the waterfront. But he said those developments wouldn't happen in the near future, due to "capital constraints" and other plans that need to be worked out.

Some Selden Road residents raised questions about parking and about being kept adequately informed of the town's plans. Eno said the town would address those questions if the deal goes forward.

"We will certainly, when and if it happens, keep the neighbors informed," he said.

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