Capital improvement fund has most to lose at FTM
This year’s Financial Town Meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, June 6, carries with it a Town Council-recommended combined budget of $21,476,795 for fiscal year 2011-12. The town budget is $9,064,965 and the school budget totals $12,411,830.
The figure is a 2.8 percent increase over the last fiscal year’s budget of just over $20.86 million. The increase comes from $1,187,555 for the town’s capital improvement fund. Although the budget guide that was published in the Press on May 19 has the fund total at $902,555, an additional $285,000 was transferred into the fund for one-time capital improvement projects.
The capital improvement fund include projects such as paving two miles of road ($276,000), closing the landfill ($65,000), a bike path study ($21,000), and $46,000 for computer equipment, support and wireless technology.
Also included in the capital improvement fund are three vehicles totaling $72,605: a 2011 FordExpedition4x4anda2011 Ford Crown Victoria for the Police Department, and a new car for the Fire Department.
Discrepancies in the budget arise most significantly from the engineering and police departments. Although the budget calls for an $18,000 increase in clerical salaries, it is actually “a wash,” according to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, because the canvassing and clerical salaries were shifted into each other.
The town will save $74,805 in salary with the elimination of the town engineer position. Following the engineer’s retirement early this year, the town decided to consolidate the position into the director of the Public Works Department, Mike Gray.
Under the recommended budget, the Police Department budget is the lowest it has been in three years. “The police budget for fiscal year ’12 is actually lower that it was in fiscal year ’09-10,” Keiser said.
The $1,580,108 total includes the elimination of one patrol offi- cer position and the retirement of three long-term employees.
“We didn’t fill the vacancy so that saves about $50,000 in straight salary,” said Keiser. He said that because the newly hired officers pay rate isn’t as high as the retiring officers’ salaries, the town will save another $40,000 in salary.
The big news at this year’s Financial Town Meeting is the warrant proposed by the Taxpayers’ Association of Jamestown. The warrant calls for a motion to reduce the budget by $601,350. If the warrant is passed, the cuts on the town side of the budget will come directly from the capital improvement plan.
If the warrant were passed, the town would have to cut approximately $450,000 from its budget. (The School Department would be responsible for the rest.)
Keiser said that the warrant would force the town to cut back on road paving, and defer the recreation center’s heating system, the Fire Department’s roof, and the new town vehicles. He said the bike path study, the landfill closure and the $100,000 for the Fort Getty Reserve Fund would also have to wait.
“We aren’t eliminating the need for the improvements,” Keiser said. “We are just deferring them to another year. Sooner or later we are going to have to fix these things.”
He also mentioned that $40,000 for legal services to fight the LNG terminal in Mount Hope Bay is also discretionary and would be eliminated.
Keiser said that certain things would have to be done with capital improvement funds even if the warrant passes. He said that the town will have to meet state Department of Environment regulations and fix draining problems. He also said there are safety issues and replacing more than 3,000 feet of fire hose is a priority.
“The town management hopes that taxpayers do support the budget,” Keiser said, “because it does represent a good value in maintaining community assets and is relatively reasonable with the increase in tax rate.”