The Day – ‘Difficult’ budget decisions loom as East Lyme finance board weighs staffing requests

East Lyme — Board of Finance members this week said staffing increases in the proposed $81.34 million 2022-23 budget are going to be “difficult” to reckon with amid current economic realities affecting residents whose property taxes pay for town services.

The proposal from the school and selectmen boards represents a total increase of $3.35 million, or 4.30%, over the current budget.

Staffing requests on the town side include several positions in public safety, information technology and human relations. On the school side, three of the roughly 12 positions added at the start of the school year with federal American Rescue Plan dollars will have to be absorbed into the operating budget if they’re going to continue.

Democrat Peter DeRosa at Monday’s finance board meeting said requests for new positions are an “easy target” when it comes to deciding where to make cuts in order to come up with a budget number taxpayers will approve.

Targets become harder to find once they are entrenched in the annual operating budget, where contractual, fixed costs such as salaries, benefits and utilities, make up the bulk of expenses that rise with each new budget cycle.

Recent year-over-year budget increases look like this: 2.29% in 2017, 1.35% in 2018, 2.52% in 2019, 2.7% in 2020, and 2.37% in the current budget.

The total proposed budget includes $54.61 million approved last month by the Board of Education, as well as a spending plan crafted by Republican First Selectman Kevin…

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