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With low turnout, Ledyard voters pass budget

Ledyard — Only about 3% of the registered voters in Ledyard turned out at the polls Tuesday to pass the town's 2021-22 budget.

The $60,295,817 package was approved by a 252-62 margin, marking the end of a relatively quiet budget season in town.

The plan increases overall spending by 0.27%, with education funding increasing by 1.45%. The school budget stands at $33,671,969.

Among those voting for the budget were Gales Ferry residents Carmen Garcia-Irizarry, Kathy Williams and Tara Armstrong.

"I don't think there's anything to complain about," Garcia-Irizarry said. "There's nothing really controversial in the budget."

Williams said she supported the budget because it properly funds education in the town.

"The past year has been difficult for people to stay on top of things in town, due to COVID-19, so that may be why there was a low voter turnout," she said.

Armstrong, a teacher at the Gales Ferry Elementary School, said the schools could use more funding but, "we'll take the small increase and be happy with it. It's a fair budget."

The mill rate will decrease by 3.56%, but many taxpayers in town will see their bills go up, due to recent property revaluations.

"The real estate market is as hot as it's probably ever been," Mayor Fred Allyn III said. "For example, at the beginning of this week, there were only about 12 to 14 homes for sale in Ledyard. Usually, it's about 120-140 homes. The property revaluations are reflecting that trend, with property value increases resulting in higher taxes for many. This was a challenge this year for sure."

Allyn added he's happy the "responsible" budget was approved at the polls, but a little disappointed at the low turnout.

"When the budget changes fairly insignificantly, the level of interest just isn't there," he said.

Town Councilor Bill Saums, who's also chairman of the council's Finance Committee, said he's very pleased the budget passed, and is always worried until the final tally is announced.

"With a town of 15,000 people, and only 300 choosing to decide the budget, it could go either way," he said.

Saums said he's not completely surprised with the low turnout, noting the coronavirus pandemic restrictions last year meant no budget referendum, with the Town Council having the final say.

"It might've gotten people to think 'Well, they didn't do anything bad to us (in 2020)', so they decided to let someone else vote. That's the problem. I won my Town Council seat (in 2019) by one vote, so in Ledyard, it matters," he said.

The new budget includes $11,660 for the police department to add a captain to its ranks by reorganizing positions so that it adheres to new state standards for accountability and transparency. It does not require any new hires. The department also will be acquiring body cameras for its officers. It already has cruiser dashboard cameras.

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