’23-24 budget passed without objections

The financial town meeting was dispatched in less than 20 minutes Monday as 103 voters unanimously passed the $28.72 million budget for 2023-24, which begins July 1.

They also approved $1.26 million in bonds to lease heavy equipment and upgrade the HVAC system at the police station. The property tax rate is estimated to increase by 21 cents from $6.79 to $7 per $1,000 valuation. With a tax levy of $23.4 million, the increase of $908,889 represents an uptick of 4 percent, which is the maximum allowed by state law. It is the second consecutive year that the budget has met that threshold on the button.

The voter turnout represents between 2-3 percent of the local electorate (4,700 registered voters).

The operating budget for the municipal side is $10.29 million with $1.55 million in debt service and $787,000 in capital improvements. That results in a total general fund of $12.6 million, which is a 2.4 percent increase from 2022-23.

“In the past, it seemed that these meetings were getting shorter and shorter,” said Nancy Beye, president of the town council. “Even though that may be the case, it does not reflect the amount of work that goes into creating the budget.”

The school department accounts for $16.12 million of which $13.86 million needs to be subsidized by taxes. The operating budget represents a 3.8 percent increase. The total combined budget of $28.72 million represents a 1.5 percent increase of $433,881.

Kristine Lapierre, chairwoman of the school committee, said the budget was “an investment not only in the future of our children, but in the future of our district and our community.”

“Most of our budget as a school department is legislated; there is virtually no discretionary money in what we proposed to the town,” she said. “Instead, we need to consider budgetary factors such as our unpredictable student enrollment from our military population. Not only do the enrollment numbers impact the budget, but services for special education and multilingual learners can add an additional cost.”

Lapierre, addressing the voters, outlined the district’s highlights from the past year. Solar panels were installed, which will generate more than 95 percent of the energy used to power the schools, and the U.S. Department of Education designated Jamestown as a Green Ribbon district. Gov. Dan McKee recognized the district with an award for leading by example regarding clean energy, and the schools were in the top three forboth math and English per the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System.

Three teachers received grants for STEM programs, a math teacher was given the 2023 Extraordinary Educator Award by Curriculum Associates and the band at Lawn School received a rating of superior at the statewide festival.

“It is no secret that a well-funded school district benefits the entire community,” Lapierre said.

After the budget was passed, voters also approved two bond resolutions, including $275,000 to update the police station’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

The second bond of $985,000 will subsidize the lease of six pieces of heavy equipment by the public works department. The department received equipment from a lease purchase approved in 2015, and that debt service from this bond is set to expire.

This includes a six-wheel dump truck to replace a 2003 vehicle ($230,000), a street sweeper to replace a 2006 vehicle for which parts are no longer available ($240,000), a loader to replace a 2006 version with a rotted cab ($185,000), a tractor and roadside mower to replace the 2006 version ($185,000), a mini-excavator to replace the 2008 excavator ($75,000) and $70,000 for a slope mower.

Debt service of $25,000 for interest only on these bonded items is owed in the upcoming fiscal year.