Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education (CT Examiner/Werth)

Debt Service, Retirements, Spur First Ever Decrease in Lyme-Old Lyme School Budget

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LYME-OLD LYME — For the first time ever, the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education approved a budget with a 0.05 percent decrease compared to the previous year.

The total budget decreased by $18,651 to a total of $35.07 million.

“No programs were reduced, no staff members were cut, no facilities projects were shortcut,” said Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “In large part, the decrease is due to a significant decrease in debt service.”

Because Lyme-Old Lyme owns the lands and buildings it uses, unlike a municipal district, it also carries its own debt service, allowing the regional district to reduce the overall school budget without violating the state’s minimum budget requirement as long as its operating budget does not also decrease.

The board-approved 2020-21 operating budget increased by 2.24 percent compared to 2019-20.

In addition to a reduction in debt service, the overall budget decrease can be credited to two unanticipated retirements announced in the last week, as well an unexpectedly low bid for the tennis court project planned for June and July 2020.

“We are expanding not contracting as a district right now, so to have a budget actually go down is impressive right now,” said Board of Education member Rick Goulding.

According to Neviaser, student enrollment has increased by 12 students since the start of 2020. This includes the 11th tuition-paying student to enroll at Lyme-Old Lyme Schools.

The public gathered on Wednesday evening did not offer a single objection or ask a single question. 

“On behalf of the town of Old Lyme, thank you. This is good news”– was the lone public comment.

Potential Land Purchase

The Board of Education is continuing to discuss the possibility of purchasing a 26-acre parcel of land from Lyme Academy of Fine Arts adjacent to the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle and High School campus.

“We have been continuing to speak with them because, as Martha put it, ‘discussions don’t cost us any money,’” Neviaser said.

This Friday, the Board of Education, Neviaser and Rebecca Waldo, a resident of Old Lyme who has requested the school consider a goal of net zero emissions for the district by 2030, will meet to walk the ground and determine with a consultant if it would be a suitable property for a ground-mounted solar array.

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