Ledyard council votes to adopt budget, hears from Osten

Ledyard - The Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt a $50.1 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

In her first appearance before the council, state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, spoke briefly at the start of the meeting to discuss how the outlook for the state budget could affect Ledyard.

"I don't see a lot of money coming out of Hartford to replace additional expenditures," she said.

Osten told council members that while there will be some money available for infrastructure - and, in light of the new gun control legislation, some grant money for school security upgrades - she asked that the town's budget for the upcoming fiscal year be kept tight.

Osten also said the state legislature will look to eliminate or mitigate some unfunded mandates - for example, reducing the printed legal notice requirement from a full-text notice to just a headline. This measure could go into effect in July or October, she said. Osten said she did not anticipate this change would affect the town's budget "in large dollar amounts" but said it would be "a beginning."

"I don't expect to eliminate people's right to know," she said, "but this is an electronic age."

Council member Sharon Wadecki said that cutting back the legal notice mandate would provide some substantive financial relief. Ledyard's legal notice budget is $25,000.

As it heads to referendum in May, the general government operating budget stands at $20,442,567 - a 4.2 percent increase - and the Board of Education budget stands at $29.7 million - an increase of less than 1 percent. The overall budget represents a 2 percent increase over the current fiscal year's.

The tax rate is set to increase just under three-tenths of a mill, to 28.22 mills. The tax rate will not be set until June, after the budget has passed at referendum.

The council also voted to appropriate $51 million for the design and construction of a major Ledyard Middle School renovation and a new police facility set to be built next to Town Hall and authorized the issue of bonds and notes to finance them - the final steps by the council before the projects go before the voters.

The $45 million middle school project sparked some continued discussion of the historically high price tag and gave several council members some pause. Wadecki and Council Chairwoman Linda Davis said this number was much higher than it should be. Davis said she expects the Municipal Building Committee to "sharpen their pencils" when they take a harder look at the costs.

Davis said she would ultimately support the project because the state reimbursement rate of 62 percent could go down later and make the project even more expensive to the town.

On the $6.7 million police station project, Mayor John Rodolico said this price tag could also stand to be knocked down a bit by the Municipal Building Committee. The council passed this appropriation unanimously.

The council also adopted a town water operations budget for next year of $926,542, up from $898,456 last year.


Hearing, meetings, referendum schedule

• April 22: Public hearing on the budget, 7 p.m., Ledyard High School auditorium
• May 7: Town meeting on municipal building projects, 7 p.m., Ledyard High School auditorium
• May 20: Town meeting on the budget and presentation on building projects, 7:30 p.m., Ledyard High School auditorium
• May 21: Budget referendum, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., at polling places


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