2008-02-28 / Editorial

From the Town Administrator

By Bruce Keiser

The Providence Journal is publishing a series of articles on municipal and school budgets to inform readers about the size and cost of their local governments. I applaud the Journal for its commitment to gather and report on local fi- nances. In any year, taxpayers deserve to know where their hard-earned tax dollars are going and why.

Having read the Journal stories, several residents have expressed surprise and concern that Jamestown "employs" a reported work force of 371 people. By failing to define the status of these "employees," the report unintentionally leaves the impression that there are nearly 400 fulltime jobs in town government and the schools in Jamestown. This is grossly misleading.

Let me set the record straight. In Jamestown, there are 62 full-time municipal positions and four part-time at 20 or more hours per week. These town jobs include: 22 in public safety (police, dispatch, harbor); 20 in highway maintenance, water, and sewer; 5 recreation and parks; and 3 at the library. The remaining 16 full and half-time positions work at Town Hall in building and zoning (2), finance (3), planning (2), public works (3), tax assessor (1), town administrator (2), and town clerk (3).

The school department employs 56 teachers (regular and special education) and 34 nonteaching staff (administration, clerical, maintenance, and teaching assistants). The total town and school full and half-time workforce is

152.

Where are the other 219 jobs? The Journal's count includes seasonal or temporary help as summer lifeguards, parks maintenance personnel, playground staff, recreation aides, poll workers, as well as substitute teachers. To be counted as an "employee," a person need only to have received a pay check for one or more days of "employment."

Municipal and school budgets are serious business with significant financial impacts on property owners and on the services the community receives in return. Any journalistic analysis intended to portray what taxpayers are receiving for their public investments is welcome. However, communities are not plain vanilla. They all have different needs and make taxing and spending choices based on these very varied local conditions. For example, our island community of Jamestown cannot neatly be compared to a rural, undeveloped Exeter which has no local schools, no police force, and no water or sewer service, etc.

We will begin our budget workshops to review the FY2008-09 proposed fiscal plan on March 4. I encourage all to come, listen, and ask questions to help shape next year's Town Budget.

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