Municipal employees around the state are preparing and double-checking their department budgets for review and approval in the months to come; including those in Ledyard who have to turn in their department budgets by Jan. 21, according to a directive issued by Mayor John Rodolico mid-December.
But, even if the Town Council propose a zero-increase budget, the town’s tax rate remains one of the highest in the area, even among towns with higher budgets and schools with higher scores on standardized tests.
Town Councilors will be tasked with striking a balance between keeping the town affordable for residents while also making it attractive for future residents and business.
Last year, Ledyard Schools almost cut music programs, among other things and at a public hearing, parents expressed concern that the school system was deteriorating under the Town’s pressure to abide by a zero increase budget.
Currently, the Town is looking at two multi-million dollar construction projects to renovate the middle school and to build a new police station.
Also, the mayor and the Public Safety Commission are looking at the potential and controversial cost saving measure of outsourcing the emergency services dispatch center. The dispatch center is currently located in the police station and dispatches police, fire and ambulance for the Town of Ledyard; its budget is less than one percent of the total budget.
Its potential elimination is not sitting well with residents. One Ledyard Patch user asked, “who would move here when they hear that the town sacrificed our health and safety and property for fractions of a penny on the dollar?”
Ledyard is a bedroom community too far off the beaten path for most big businesses, according to former Mayor Fred Allyn, Jr. Two obstacles facing economic development in Ledyard is that it does not have a direct exit on or off the highway(s) nor does it have a municipal sewer system.
Allyn, who is a partner in Allyn Associates, Realtors of Norwich, said Ledyard would be a very good location for business incubators, service businesses, entrepreneurs and for those seeking office space like lawyers and accountants, for instance.
Ledyard maintains the unappealing distinction of having one of the highest tax rates in Southeastern Connecticut but just a few miles down the road in Stonington, residents have the lowest tax rate in the region.
The mill rate for each town in Connecticut is listed on the Office of Policy and Management’s website. Here are tax rates for surrounding towns or nearby towns with comparable school systems.Town budget (in millions) mill rate Stonington $56.7 15.89 Waterford $78.8 19.77 Groton $120.89 20.22* East Lyme $62.2 22.78 N. Stonington $18.0 25.25 Ledyard $49.16 27.93 Montville $55.6 29.33 *Groton has varying additional taxes for the different fire and sewer districts, which amount to no more than 26.37.
The town’s budget season will pick up soon, here’s the schedule so far:
Jan. 21 – all departments submit preliminary budgets to Mayor’s Office.
Feb. 18 – Board of Education shall file budget estimates to the Mayor’s Office.
March 4 – Mayor submits budget to Town Council and files with Town Clerk’s Office.
March – Finance Committee conducts Departmental Budget Work Sessions. Departments submit budget material to Town Council.
April 10 – Town Council finalizes budget
April 15 – Town Council files proposed budget with Town Clerk’s office for public hearing.
April 22 – Town Council conducts one or more public hearings on the proposed budget at the Ledyard High School, 24 Gallup Hill Road.
May 6 - Town Council files budget with Town Clerk.
May 20 – Annual town meeting on the town budget to adjourn to a vote on the voting machine on the next day (May 21). Should the referendum on the budget refer the budget back to the council, the Town Council should reconsider the budget and present it for a second vote on the voting machine two weeks following the previous referendum (June 4). If the second referendum on the budget fails, the Town Council shall reconsider the budget and present it for a third vote on the voting machine two weeks following the previous vote (June 18). Should the third referendum fail; the Town Council shall adopt a final budget by the fourth Monday in June (June 24).
June 26 – Prior to the first day of July, the Town Council shall fix the tax rate in mils.