East Lyme town government budget proposed with zero percent increase

East Lyme — The first selectman presented on Wednesday a proposed town government budget for 2018-19 with a zero percent increase.

Citing the impact of the state's budgetary crisis on municipalities, First Selectman Mark Nickerson told the Board of Selectmen in his budget proposal that he focused on striking a balance between taxes and services while crafting the budget. He called the spending plan a "bare bones budget" with no new programs or services.

The proposal, including general-government, debt service and capital spending, is $24.259 million, the same as the current fiscal year's spending plan.

With the Board of Education's budget of $47.774 million, a 2.59 percent increase, the overall proposed 2018-19 budget for East Lyme stands at $72.033 million, or a 1.7 percent increase.

Nickerson said in his budget proposal that he focused on maintaining services and improving infrastructure and quality of life in town, but kept, where possible, operating costs at the same level as or less than in the current fiscal year. Contractual obligations, health insurance and pension benefits were the main sources of any increases in operating costs.

The expenses of beach and parks operations, as well as revenues, have been shifted out of the 2018-19 operating budget and into a special revenue fund. The cost of lifeguards, attendants and supervisors was about $154,000 this year, while beach security was about $5,000.

The Parks and Recreation Department will be responsible for ensuring the fees they charge cover the operations of the parks and beaches, he said.

The town also will manage the Local Capital Improvement Program grant from the state in the town's capital and nonrecurring fund, rather than the general fund, according to the budget proposal.

As the town faces decreased state aid and other revenue reductions, the proposal calls for restructuring some of the town's departments and not filling certain positions. It proposes eliminating a part-time position in the town clerk's office and one full-time position for Parks and Recreation, with the department instead employing more seasonal staff during peak times.

Richard E. Morris, the town's fire marshal and emergency management director, is slated to retire in early March. The plan is for the police chief to fulfill the duties of emergency management director and for Chris Taylor, the town's full-time deputy fire marshal, to step into the fire marshal position, Nickerson said.

For the Public Works department, the town did not fill the highway supervisor position, after the highway superintendent retired last year, and instead established two foreman positions, according to the budget proposal.

The proposal also calls for making a part-time emergency dispatcher position into a full-time position.

Nickerson said in his proposal to the selectmen that the town is finishing projects already in the works, but isn't taking on any new projects. He said the only new project the town will have to discuss in the near future is a public safety facility. The police department moved to the building on Main Street as a temporary measure in 2005, so the town will need to make a decision to either renovate and expand that facility or build a new one.

The Board of Selectmen will review and deliberate on the budget before sending it to the Board of Finance. The selectmen are scheduled to meet to begin reviewing the budget by department at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at Town Hall.


Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the Board of Education budget of $47.774 million.


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