2012-05-31 / Front Page

Get ready for Monday’s Financial Town Meeting

FTM will begin at 7 p.m. at Lawn Avenue School
BY TIM RIEL

While the Financial Town Meeting was swirling with anticipation in recent years passed, expect no such hullaballoo on Monday when Jamestown voters will be asked to approve a combined budget of $21,586,065. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Lawn Avenue School.

According to Town Administrator

Bruce Keiser, the spending package approved by the Town Council is a “maintenance-of-effort budget.” What that basically means is that the town will spend at least what it did last year, with slight increases in existing operations, but with no new programs.

In 2010 it was controversy surrounding the possible elimination of the animal control officer. Last year it was a warrant proposed by the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown asking that voters reduce the budget by $601,350. Both times the budget recommended by the Town Council prevailed – the animal control officer was axed, and the budget wasn’t amended.

The fiscal year 2012-13 recommended budget combines the $9,201,687 proposed for the municipal side with the $12,384,378 proposed by the School Department. If approved, the school budget will decrease by $27,452 from fiscal year 2011-12, while the municipal budget will increase by $471,722. Overall, the combined budget would be 1.9 percent more than last year’s.

No budget warrants to amend the Town Council’s proposal were submitted by deadline this year which means – per Town Charter – only motions to change the budget by less than $10,000 can be made.

Much of the increase in municipal spending is due to debt-service cost stemming from the highway barn and renovations to the police station. Until now, taxpayers have only paid toward the interest, but they will begin making principal payments in the upcoming fiscal year.

Under the recommended budget, there would be a property-tax increase of 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The 1.5 percent modest surge would mean that property owners will pay $9.35 per $1,000 of assessed value – or, for example, an extra $56 for property valued at $400,000.

Line items include an increase of $25,000 to the annual budget for police overtime. The council approved $175,000 for overtime in fiscal year 2012-13, opposed to $150,000 in 2011-12. Keiser said the reason for the increase is be- cause the annual average of police overtime is more than $150,000, so the surge brings the spending more in line with reality.

Another line item that increased concerning the Police Department is that the cost of educating police will more than double. Keiser said that the $28,000 set aside for education – $14,800 more than 2011- 12 – is because of state-mandated requirements. He added that three officers are currently enrolled – or have indicated that they will enroll – in college courses in the upcoming fiscal year.

The biggest expenses in the Capital Improvement Fund are $300,000 for road paving and the annual $100,000 that is put into the Fort Getty kitty. Keiser said that Slope, Capstan and Deck streets will be paved this year. As for the Fort Getty fund, it has been completely drained due to the $463,000 cost to rebuild the pavilion – the town’s insurance company only paid $198,000 towards the project. So on July 1, the Fort Getty fund will stand at $100,000.

Another item that might come as a surprise to residents is $25,000 set aside for a Town Hall generator. During Rhode Island’s emergency response leading up to Hurricane Irene, state officials inquired about which towns and cities could remain running in the event of a power outage. According to Keiser, Jamestown was one of only a handful of municipalities whose primary government offices wasn’t equipped with a generator.

As for employee raises, only one jumps out from the budget proposal – Justin Jobin, the town’s environmental scientist. Although at first sight it seems Jobin would get a healthy raise of $10,000, in reality, it isn’t a raise at all. According to Keiser, the town is just transferring some of his salary from the wastewater account to the general municipal account because Jobin has been spending about “75 percent” of his time working with the geographic information system.

“Based on the lack of resident input during the budget-development process, it does not appear that there will be many concerns,” Keiser said. “We expect a short meeting.”

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