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East Lyme voters approve $80.6M budget for 2022-23

East Lyme — Voters approved the proposed 2022-23 town budget of $80.6 million, and the new mill rate of 23.84 effective July 1, by a vote of 370-228 at Thursday's referendum.

Of the town's 13,231 registered voters, 4.5% cast ballots.

“I think people understood that this was a tough year with the inflation rate,” First Selectman Kevin Seery said. “I would love for more people to come out and vote. The low turnout usually indicates for the most part that people are comfortable with the budget.”

The 2022-23 budget reflects a 3.39%, or $2.6 million, increase in spending. However, residents will see a 4.67-mill decrease from the current year's tax rate. The Board of Finance is able to decrease the tax rate because of an increase in the grand list and by using $1.3 million from the town's unassigned fund balance.

The Board of Finance will set the 2022-23 tax rate of 23.84 mills during a special meeting Tuesday, May 24, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Despite the decrease in their real estate tax costs, residents are concerned with continued impact of inflation and upcoming home revaluations.

“I think the department heads articulated very well why they needed what was requested,” added Seery.

The approved funding allows the town to move forward with hiring an information technology director, a human resources assistant, and a part-time building official, and additional hours for the finance department and tax collector’s office.

The new budget also ensures that there will be two dispatchers for fire and police at all times and 1.5 police officer positions — one will start in July and one will start in January.

“The East Lyme Police Department is extremely grateful for the support of the town's boards, commissions, and residents. We understand that these are extremely difficult decisions during tough fiscal times, especially when it balances with the public safety needs of the community,” Police Chief Michael Finkelstein said. “The budgetary support is crucial in allowing us to ensure that we are able to provide our community with the best service possible, which starts with recognizing the need to ensure that its public safety agencies are properly staffed.”

Although the school district needed to reduce its original request at the beginning of the budgeting process and it is still contending with an increase in utility costs and unexpected health insurance costs, East Lyme Superintendent Jeffrey Newton believes it will minimally impact the students.

“I'm very happy to see that the budget passed for the Town of East Lyme. This budget will continue to support the academic and social and emotional needs of our students,” Newton said. “Many thanks to the Board of Education and Board of Finance along with our First Selectman, Kevin Seery, for all their hard work.”

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