ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET SESSION
MARCH 3, 2021
At an ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET SESSION of the Town Council of the Town of South Kingstown, County of Washington, in the State of Rhode Island, convened via video- and tele-conference, in and for said Town on the 3rd day of March 2021 at 6:30 PM.
PRESENT: Town Council
Abel G. Collins, President
Rory H. McEntee, Vice President
Deborah D. Bergner
Deborah J. Kelso
Jessica L. Rose
Also present: Robert C. Zarnetske, Town Manager; Zachary Saul, Finance Director; Aimee Reiner, Director of Administrative Services; Jean Paul Bouchard, Tax Assessor; Jamie Rabbitt, Director of Planning; James Gorman, Building Official; Mark Russo, Facilities Superintendent; Joel Ewing-Chow, Police Chief; Craig Stanley; Director of EMS; Lance Whaley, Communications Superintendent; Michael Stach, Harbormaster; Theresa Murphy, Director of Leisure Services; and Laurel Clark, Director of Library Services.
Discussion ensues relative to scheduling an additional Work Session at 6 PM prior to the Regular Session on Monday, March 8th to discuss the Town Council’s Goals and Objectives and high number budget items.
Robert Zarnetske, Town Manager presents the budget for the Town Manager’s Office. This office provides for general administrative management, policy direction and oversight of municipal operations. The Town Manager is recommending the assignment of the personnel function to a new Department of Human Resources and Training. This would expand a part-time position, created last year and as yet unfilled, to a full time position, and the Director of Administrative Services would become the Director of Human Resources and Training. The Facilities Division should be under Public Services rather than the Town Manager’s Office, and the Facilities Superintendent should report to the Director of Public Services instead of the Director of Administrative Services. Fire Alarm and Communications is another “orphan” division.
Aimee Reiner, Director of Administrative Services discusses the Town Manager’s recommendation for eliminating the Director of Administrative Services position or revising it to a different position.
Discussion ensues regarding Town Council approval of an administrative department change.
The Town Clerk’s Office budget is presented. This office has six major divisions, consisting of Town Council Records, Land Evidence Registry, Board of Canvassers, Registry of Vital Statistics, Probate Court and Business Licenses. Most expenses are level funded except for contractual increases. There is a decrease of about $6,000 in Professional Services due to completion of the 10-year re-codification of the Town Code. The Canvassing Authority budget request is also decreased from the current year as there are no major elections anticipated in the next fiscal year. The Town Clerk expresses her appreciation to the Director of Leisure Services and Community Recreation Center staff for their assistance and hospitality in allowing the Rec Center to be used as a polling place for several elections this year.
Zachary Saul, Finance Director reviews the Finance Department budget for FY2021-2022. This department provides Financial Management Administration, Accounting and Cash Management, Procurement and Risk Management, and Tax and Utility Collection. The budget request is relatively flat. There was a Tax Collector’s staff retirement, and they downgraded the new hire position. Purchase of a budget development software package is contemplated.
Lori Fox, IT Director reviews the Information Technology program. This three person department maintains computer hardware and software, internet and phone services, provides staff technical assistance and training and project management. Increases are due to merging departmental phone bills to the IT budget, maintenance contracts and fees for programs including Munis, Vision, and OpenGov. Discussion ensues relative to increases in the services line item. Additional funding is due to increased costs for fiber services, specialized services, support and maintenance. Discussion ensues relative to the cost of smartphone apps and analytics.
Jean Paul Bouchard, Town Assessor notes that the Tax Assessor’s Office budget request is mainly flat, small increases are related to personnel and benefits. This department assesses real estate, automobiles and tangibles, administers the Town-wide Revaluation Program, tax exemptions, maintains property ownership records, processes surveys and subdivisions, and prepares for Assessment Board of Review hearings.
Jamie Rabbitt, Director of Planning reviews the Planning Department budget request. Minor increases are related to personnel and services due to underfunding of training and professional consultants.
Councilwoman Bergner asks if a stipends review could be done for boards and commission members’ compensation. The Town Manager will review statutory limitations and report to the Town Council.
Jamie Gorman, Building Official reviews the budget request for the Building and Zoning Department. This office provides interpretation and enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance and building codes, and performs inspections. The majority of their budget is related to staffing, and the request for FY2021-2022 is less than the current year.
Mark Russo, Facilities Superintendent presents the Facilities Division budget request. There are 10 full time equivalent custodial positions to care for 16 Town buildings. This division provides maintenance, safety code compliance and works on capital projects. One full time employee has been moved from the Recreation department to this department.
Joel Ewing-Chow, Chief of Police presents the Police Department budget. The bulk of this department’s budget is related to personnel expenses. It is proposed to increase one additional officer but it would be budget neutral due to a previous Council approved temporary increase. Funding is proposed for the Washington County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a mental health program which currently operates with a grant-funded clinician. Other increases are related to software costs that were previously grant funded, offsite disaster recovery, new computers, hardware replacement, educational expenses and mandated training. The planned purchase of one of 5 vehicles is being deferred.
Discussion ensues relative to the CIT program and the development of a Department of Community Health with Police and EMS staff focusing on community and officer wellness.
The Police Chief reviews the Animal Welfare Division. This is a structural change whereby staff would be shifted to an Animal Welfare Division. It is proposed to hire a Superintendent, fewer part-time employees would be needed at the Shelter. The Superintendent would oversee animal control and the shelter. This moves administrative functions from the Police Department to the Superintendent position.
Michael Stach, Harbormaster reviews the Harbor Patrol budget. The division consists of a part-time Harbormaster and two seasonal assistants. In addition to harbor patrol responsibilities and boat safety checks, they manage boat moorings. Mooring revenues support this budget.
Lance Whaley, Communications Superintendent presents the Fire Alarm and Communications Department budget. The division consists of 2.5 FTEs who manage radio communication, phone lines, burglar and fire alarm systems, maintain all cables and the public safety radio network.
Craig Stanley, Director of Emergency Medical Services reviews the EMS Division budget request. Increases are related to personnel, commodities increases for medical supplies, computer software licenses, and ballistic vests for paramedics. A Community Public Health Department would expand services to keep patients healthy and prevent hospitalizations.
Rich Bourbonnais, Town Engineer reviews the budget for the Public Services Engineering Division. This division funds the Tree Warden, Town Engineer, and street lighting program. The street lighting budget reduction results from eliminating most facilities charges due to the Town taking ownership of all street lights in September 2020. The Town has been converting street lights to LED technology. All converted street lights on state roads will be conveyed to the RI Department of Transportation for ownership and maintenance.
Paul Ferrandi, Highway Superintendent reviews the budget for the Public Services Highway Division. Increases are related to personnel costs. This division provides a variety of services including pavement and roadway management, winter storm response, and stormwater management. They also support other departments’ needs.
Theresa Murphy, Director of Leisure Services presents the Parks and Recreation General Fund Budget for six divisions. Increases and reductions in administration are reviewed. The Parks Division shows a 3% increase in personnel due to raising seasonal employee pay rates. A decrease in the Athletics Division is due to COVID. In the Aquatics Division, the beach program is increased to handle COVID protocols with higher attendance and utilization of our facilities. Leisure Services oversees community events and activities. Also included in this department is the Creative Activities/Stepping Stone Preschool Program.
Laurel Clark, Director of Library Services reviews the Public Libraries Program. A modest increase is requested to support 10 full time and 19 part-time employees, comprising 80% of the total budget. Library services have been focusing on electronic books and programs during COVID, and they have been successful with a curbside pickup program.
Zachary Saul, Finance Director reviews Insurances and Claims. The Town is a member of the RI Interlocal Risk Management Trust, through which we obtain municipal insurance. Premiums are based on claims history. This account also provides funding for Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance, Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Health Care, and Fund Contingency. OPEB is now fully funded.
Theresa Murphy, Director of Leisure Services reviews the Peace Dale Office Building Fund. This budget is self-supporting from rents and programs. Capital improvements are anticipated in the future.
Mrs. Murphy reviews the Senior Services Program. The budget request for this program shows a significant decrease due to closure of the Adult Day Services Program. Personnel restructuring caused an increase in the Senior Transportation Program budget. The Senior Center has provided critical resources in the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget request for the Senior Nutrition Program is proposed at a 6% increase. The Town continues to cover building expenses at the Adult Day Care Facility. There is a 33% decrease overall in the Senior Services Program budget request.
Mrs. Murphy reviews the Neighborhood Guild Fund. This program is funded by the Neighborhood Guild Trust Fund and program revenues. The Neighborhood Guild houses aspects of the Parks and Recreation Department including Administration and Maintenance, the front desk, youth programs, music programs, adult leisure programs, and an arts program. These programs are showing a slow return to normal. A trip program is not included in the budget at this time.
Mrs. Murphy reviews the Community Recreation Center Fund. Four elections held there this past year provided additional exposure of this facility to the public. A slight increase in revenues from athletic programming and rentals in anticipated for FY2021-2022.
Zach Saul, Finance Director reviews the Debt Service Fund. The educational debt service will be increasing due to the start of payments on the $4 million bond sale. The Town’s approval in November of $6.5 million in bonding for municipal projects will add to the payments. The proposed budget does not include debt service for the $85 million bond for the school facilities project, if approved by the voters.
Adjourn at 10:08 PM.
Susan M. Flynn, CMC