ADMINISTRATIVE BUDGET SESSION
MARCH 17, 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 17th 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; and Zachary Saul, Finance Director.
The Pledge of Allegiance is given.
Council President Collins reports that the Town has learned that Federal funding is expected to be distributed to municipalities and schools from the American Rescue Plan under the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
The Town Manager advises that the Town can expect to receive $9 million in federal stimulus grants over the next 2 years. One grant of about $3 million will be available through CDBG funding for non-entitlement community. It is expected that South Kingstown will receive about $6 million as its proportionate share of funding to Washington County communities. The School Department should also receive $1.3 million as part of a December 2020 distribution. An analysis will be done of an additional $2.3 million in funding expected over the next 2 years.
These funds are designed to stimulate the economy and local businesses. The Town has to decide how to manage and maximize the funds. A list of municipal projects has been proposed totaling $14 million. There are few limitations, but guidelines and regulations will be forthcoming.
Discussion ensues relative to the Governor’s proposed budget. Pass through sales, hotel, and meals and beverage taxes are still not clear but the revenue loss is expected to be approximately $200,000 to $250,000. Stimulus funds can be used to subsidize municipal operations and must be spent by December 1, 2024.
Discussion ensues relative to use of stimulus funds for Capital Improvement Projects. The Town Manager notes that projects like the Matunuck Seawall Protection and Old Mountain Field renovations could be funded instead of using municipal bonds. Improving the economic environment for tourism was specifically noted by Congress. Discussion ensues relative to capital improvements and downtown beautification.
Discussion ensues relative to the FY2021-2022 Town Council Preliminary Budget. The Town Manager notes that the tax rate is proposed to go from $14.45 to $14.59 per thousand. The total tax levy is a 2.3% increase. The tax rate increase is less than 1%. The Property Tax Transfer (PTT) to the School Fund is proposed to remain the same as last year.
The Town Manager reviews proposed options for the Council’s consideration. Option #1 proposed changes include increasing the Human Resource support position from part-time to full-time at an increased cost of $49,130, and an upgrade to the Chief of Community Health position to $123,100, an increase of $8,100.
Option #2 provides for no increase in the property tax rate, it would remain at $14.45. The tax levy increase would be 1.3%. The PTT would remain at level funding from the FY2021 adopted budget. Potential changes include elimination of the Human Resource Support and Animal Welfare Superintendent positions; reduction in health care rate increase assumption for a reduction of $45,000; reduction of the OPEB request by $50,000; and use of an additional $440,000 in unassigned fund balance.
Discussion ensues relative to the use of undesignated fund balance.
Option #3 proposes a property tax increase to $14.73, an increase of 1.95%; the tax levy increase would be 3.3%. The school budget request would be met with a PTT of $57,053,074, an increase of $1,058,301 or 1.89% over the current year. Other changes include elimination of the Animal Welfare Superintendent position; addition of a construction and contract manager at a cost of $139,350; addition of an economic development officer at a cost of $139,350; reduction in health care rate increase assumption for a reduction of $45,000; reduction of the OPEB request by $50,000; and use of an additional $440,000 in unassigned fund balance.
Option #4 includes Federal Grant Management and possible supplemental local appropriations. This proposal includes changes outlined in Option #2. The PTT would remain level funded from the FY2021 adopted budget of $55,994,773. Language would be added that would allow the School Department to present a supplemental request to the Town Council in each of the last three quarters of the fiscal year.
Discussion ensues relative to the potential to use federal funds to cover the School’s supplemental budget requests.
Council President Collins comments in support of a bike share program at Kingston Station, downtown Wakefield, and at URI; road striping for biking; Economic Development Officer and contract specialist; expanded child care through the Parks and Recreation Department; and seed capital for Affordable Housing.
Councilwoman Rose comments in support of programs for the elderly and underserved populations.
The Town Manager notes that the Town can fund grants to non-profit organizations to provide that type of assistance.
Councilwoman Bergner comments that projects should reflect all areas of the community and ages.
Council President Collins comments on expanding the elderly tax credit program.
Councilwoman Kelso comments in favor of adding traffic calming measures and pocket parks.
Discussion ensues relative to creating a pocket park on High Street next to the fire station, and Old Mountain Field ballpark development.
Councilwoman Rose comments in favor of the paramedicine program. Craig Stanley, Director of Emergency Medical Services notes the cost of the program at $225,500.
Discussion ensues relative to the Preliminary Budget adoption.
Discussion ensues relative to compensation for a board members.
Adjourn at 8:22 PM.
Susan M. Flynn, CMC