The Day – East Lyme Finance Council approves proposed budget for 2022-23

East Lyme – The Finance Council voted on Wednesday to approve a proposed city and school budget for 2022-23 of $80.6 million, a 3.4% increase from the current budget.

The board will now hold a public hearing on the budget on April 25 at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

The board’s proposal calls for spending $54.1 million on education, a 3.6% increase, or $500,000 less than Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Newton’s proposed budget. The council’s proposed general government budget of $20.2 million represents a 2.9% increase after cutting $205,120 from the Board of Selectmen’s proposal.

The proposed budget also calls for spending $5.6 million on debt service and $636,860 on capital improvements.

The council began its deliberations on Monday before ending them on Wednesday.

Members of the finance council made it clear early in their deliberations that the proposed budgets submitted by city and school officials were too high. On Monday, they reviewed the state budget line by line. The board, however, only has control over the end result of the school budget and not the individual items.

Finance Council Deputy Chairman John Birmingham questioned the proposed school budget increase at a time when he said the city’s school population was declining and many city residents were experiencing stress. financial difficulties due to the impact of the pandemic. He noted that budget increases proposed by surrounding school districts average 2.56 percent.

“We have to take into account the elderly and people who can no longer work,” he said.

Finance Council Chair Denise Hall said Monday that the schools’ proposed increase was an “outlier” compared to other school districts. She said there is a way to balance the needs of students with residents over 55.

“Our excellent school system is reflected in real estate values,” she said. “It’s such a balancing act trying to make sure we’re looking after young and old.”

Members of the finance council first discussed reducing the school’s budget to between $625,000 and $800,000.

But Board of Education Chairman Eric Bauman said such a cut would have “a dramatic impact” on the school system.

“I can’t imagine finding that amount ‘in the proposed budget,'” he said.

On Wednesday, finance board member Richard Steel proposed that the school cut its proposed budget by $500,000.

“I was trying to maintain the same pain parity between the school side and the home side,” he said.

To reduce the reduction in the school budget, members of the finance council agreed to reduce the general government by $205,120. The council did this in part by delaying the hiring of one of the two new police officers for six months and doing the same with one of the two new firefighter positions.