Voters approve $11 million Lyme budget

Lyme — After an efficient and quick town meeting Tuesday, voters unanimously approved the town’s total $11 million budget proposed for the 2019-20 fiscal year after the finance board announced in April there would be no tax increase for residents.

That possibility largely comes in part from savings through the town’s contribution toward the proposed $35 million Lyme-Old Lyme education budget next year, which is based on student populations residing in each town, Finance Board Chairman Dan Hagan said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Paying just 19.3 percent, or $6.57 million, of the total $35 million education budget, Lyme will be spending about $169,000 less than what it did this year.

Passed at $11,014,242 million, the budget, which includes general government, education, debt service and capital spending, reflects a 6.0 percent decrease, or $708,000, from the current fiscal year's spending plan. The decrease mostly is due to the $1.1 million in state grants and funds the town used to pay for a recently acquired 250 acres of open space, known as the Johnston property, this year — an expense that won't be repeated next year, making both the town's income and expenses appear to drop by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

With a mill rate set at 19.95 Tuesday, it also appears that taxes will increase, as this year’s mill rate is 18.6.

Hagan clarified Tuesday that was not the case, though, saying the grand list decreased by 6.7 percent this year due to property revaluations in 2018. He said the mill rate therefore was increased by that same amount to account for the difference.

“That will bring in the same amount of revenue we are bringing in now,” Hagan said, also explaining that residents, as a whole, will not pay more in general property taxes next year. An individual’s personal property tax could increase or decrease, however, depending how their property was assessed, he said.

While explaining that saving was a priority in next year’s budget, Hagan said the town hopes to eventually put aside $1 million in a capital nonrecurring account. He said $150,000 would be put into that account next year to potentially help cover large and unforeseen expenses in the future, thereby helping to stabilize any potential tax increases.

Hagan also said another $75,000 was being placed into an "open space" fund that he said the town hopes to build back up over the next several years after depleting it to purchase the Johnston property last year.

Within a separate “highways” capital expense account, another $275,000 is being budgeted toward bridge repairs on Birch Mill Road, First Selectman Steve Mattson has said. Repairs will take place over the next two fiscal years and will cost about $700,000. The town, however, should receive a state grant offsetting 50 percent of those costs, Mattson has said.

m.biekert@theday.com

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