2009-07-30 / News

From the Town Administrator

By Bruce Keiser
Jamestown’s new fiscal year began on July 1, with some relief that we have weathered the economic downturn with an expectation that we will end the year in the black. This is good news, given the loss of state aid and the sharp drop in local permit fees, real estate transfer taxes and investment returns. Nonetheless, Jamestown is clearly in a healthy financial condition relative to many of our sister cities and towns in Rhode Island.

Several factors contribute to this standing, including our historically low reliance on state aid, greater stability in the housing market – especially upper-end homes, the retention of a strong unreserved fund balance and less costly labor contracts.

With the development of this year’s budget, the town has adjusted for decreased economically sensitive revenues and has removed general state aid altogether. In looking forward, we are optimistic that budgeted revenues are realistic and, with the exception of uncertain returns on invested assets, less vulnerable to economic shocks.

One area of significant concern, however, is the future of state education funding for Jamestown schools. In order to balance the state budget, the General Assembly made substantial reductions in state assistance for local education and replaced state funding with federal economic stimulus money. Clearly, when stimulus funds disappear, the state will be strained to recommit resources to pre-recession levels.

As the town becomes increasingly self-reliant to fund local services, the Town Council and administration are committed to finding opportunities to increase the cost-effectiveness of providing town services. For example, beginning July 1, we joined a collaborative of municipalities and school districts to joint purchase health insurance. By pooling risk among a larger entity, the town and School Department were able to reduce health care premium expenses by $160,000 for the current year. Other possible cost savings may be found in the reorganization of operations or consolidation with other communities, shifting to renewable energy generation, selectively reducing street lighting and minimizing residential solid waste disposal through enhanced recycling.

Recycling

Improvements in recycling offer immediate positive returns and will get underway immediately.

As reported at the last Town Council meeting, collectively, residents recycled 26.5 percent of all household trash in the 12-month period ending June 30. That compares well with the statewide average for cities and towns, but it still fell short of the 28.5 percent state mandate for the past year. Further, with the state threshold set at 30 percent in the current year and rising to 35 percent on July 1, 2011, it is evident that we need to find ways to direct more trash from the garbage can to the blue and green recycle bins.

Consider that all households generated 3,199 tons of waste last year and diverted 848 tons in the form of recyclable plastic, glass, metal, paper and cardboard. In order to raise our recycling rate to the prescribed level, an additional 112 tons of material will have to be separated from the waste stream. To reach this goal, each household, on average, will need to re-direct 83 pounds to the recycle bins each year. Sounds daunting, but that’s only 1.6 pounds per week and certainly seems achievable.

Besides the environmental benefits of recycling (extending the life of the Central Landfi ll, conserving natural resources and reducing demand for fossil fuels), a community pays a premium when recycling targets are not met. The system works this way: For each ton of trash over the population-based limit set by the R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation, the city or town pays an additional $28 ($60 per ton versus $32). There are also positive incentives: Exceeding the recycling goal reduces the per-ton charge by as much as 10 percent.

Since residents control our success in recycling, the Town Council will appoint a recycling committee to review and recommend options to boost our performance. The committee will meet regularly over the next six months to develop strategies to get us on our way to becoming a leading recycling community in the state. If you have an interest in participating, we encourage you to fill out an application at the Town Clerk’s office.

The Clerk’s office goes online

If you have not yet noticed, the Town Clerk’s office has developed a computer-based Town Council agenda. Now, residents can view the upcoming agenda and all supporting reports, correspondence, licenses and applications online. Kudos to Town Clerk Arlene Petit!

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