Lyme voters unanimously approve budget at town meeting

Lyme — About 35 residents at the annual town budget meeting on Thursday approved a 2017-18 spending plan of $11.19 million, a 1.5 percent decrease over the current budget.

Next year's tax rate, set by the Board of Finance on Thursday, will remain at the current rate of 18.25 mills.

The budget comprises $9,869,475 in operating expenses, a 2.3 percent increase, and $1,323,286 in capital, a 23.2 percent decrease. The spending plan includes the town's $6.9 million portion of the Lyme-Old Lyme schools' budget.

The spending plan further includes funding for the purchase of about 250 acres of open space known as the Johnston property that abuts the Jewett and Pleasant Valley Preserves. The purchase is contingent on a grant from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that First Selectman Ralph Eno expects would be at least $580,000. The town also could use its open space reserve account for the remainder of the initial payment of about $950,000 next fiscal year.

Given the state's budget crisis, Eno said the town's spending plan assumes no grants for Education Cost Sharing, PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), MRSA (municipal revenue sharing account) or the Special Education Excess Cost Grant. The budget does factor in some state funding, including aid for town roads, the Local Capital Improvement Program and Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund grants.

Tax collector

At Thursday's town meeting, voters unanimously approved making the tax collector an appointed, rather than an elected position.

Tax Collector Linda Ward, who is retiring in November, was given a round of applause for her service, and Eno said she is "fantastic."

The Board of Selectmen will be able to appoint the next tax collector to a four-year term. The board can make the appointment at its meeting that follows the Nov. 2017 municipal elections.

Eno said that having the tax collector as an appointed position gives the town the option to look for a person with the proper certification and in a timely manner, should there be a vacancy that was not planned for.

He said the first choice would be to fill the position with a qualified town resident, but that may not always be the case since the position requires somewhat rigorous requirements and certification.   

k.drelich@theday.com

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