Major increases lie in capital improvements
A new roof for the rec center, fresh carpets at the library and upgraded emergency medical equipment are among the major purchases the town could incur in fiscal year 2014.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser Saturday morning unveiled his $1.2 million proposed capital improvement budget at a special budget workshop with the Town Council.
According to Keiser, the capital budget is increasing “almost onethird.” He called the amount of the increase “unusual,” but went on to say that capital improvements are essentially the only line items that have increased substantially from the current fiscal year.
Keiser said the town is facing about $7 million worth of capital improvement projects over the coming six years. He proposed setting aside roughly $1.2 million each year to meet the obligation.
“All the increase is on the capital side,” he said.
Because Jamestown’s overall fi- nances are in good shape, Keiser said the town has an opportunity to address the capital items now.
“How much does the council feel is appropriate to request from taxpayers for equipment?” he asked.
Keiser said town revenues should increase $90,000 due to growth in real estate. That means the property taxes should increase $28 annually for a $400,000 home, he said, to finance the proposed $21,689,746 total town and school budget.
For more than three hours on Saturday morning, the councilors and the staff poured over spending requests for capital improvements.
More than half the requests – some $685,000 – are earmarked for the Public Works Department. Town Engineer Michael Gray reported that road conditions account for 75 percent of calls received by the Highway Department.
“We have 50 miles of road and 31 percent are poor or in failed condition,” Gray said. “We’re really trying to focus on North Road.”
Gray is putting North Road on the front burner because that’s the most heavily trafficked street. He requested $345,000 to pave two miles of the road. Keiser cut down the amount and recommended $325,000 – up from $300,000 this year – and said the line item would continue to increase $25,000 every year.
“At some point, the council may want to consider a bond,” Keiser said. He suggested fiscal year 2016, the year Jamestown will retire 20-year-old school and library bonds.
Councilor Blake Dickinson said he would prefer to see the town go out to bond for the money to repair all the roads. Keiser replied he and Gray would provide the councilors with analysis on the options.
Recreation Director Bill Piva asked for $150,000 to fix the rec center’s roof and $100,000 for landscaping by the Fort Getty pavilion. Kaiser cut the Fort Getty request in half, but recommended $35,000 to install an indoor restroom at the rec center. Keiser also recommended $20,000 to repair the Mackerel Cove bathhouse, $35,000 to buy a new truck for Fort Getty maintenance workers, and $35,000 to improve the rec center’s insulation.
Department heads requested new generators for Town Hall, and the police and fire stations. The councilors indicated they probably will not OK those purchases this year after Gray said the Public Works Department has extra generators. Gray said they could be loaned to other departments and Keiser suggested there may be grants available to pay for new generators down the road.
“I’m suggesting we hold off a year and use the backups in the meantime,” Council President Kristine Trocki said.
Finance Director Tina Collins said the fire station generator could qualify as an emergency purchase if necessary.
The total cost for the new generators came to about $100,000, including $35,000 for a generator at Town Hall. Police Chief Ed Mello had asked for $24,000 for two portable generators for emergency management, plus $24,000 for a generator for the police station.
Fire Chief Jim Bryer initially requested $15,000 for a 30-kilowatt generator for the Narragansett Avenue fire station, but then said that would be too small. According to technicians, the station will require a 60-kilowatt generator.
The Fire Department’s generator exploded during the last storm, Bryer said. The generator was preowned and came from the State House where it was first put into service in the 1960s.
In all, the department heads requested more than $2 million in acquisitions and in one-time improvement projects, but Keiser has suggested a lower amount of $1,203,716, up from $932,840 and representing an increase of 29.04 percent over last year.
Keiser said he cut the requests “down a little bit” based on meetings with the department heads and consultation with Collins.
Keiser said he starts the budget process by discussing the “overall request” with each department head. “We ask them, in terms of the scheduling, what’s important for the next fiscal year and what can be delayed,” he said. “It’s a joint effort.”
Ultimately, he has recommended requests totaling $1,603,716. Because approximately $400,000 of that total could be financed with grants ($250,000) and by dipping into the balance of the undesignated fund ($150,000), the total recommended capital budget stands at $1.2 million.