Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 05-23-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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Page 15 of 47

16 WOONSOCKET MAY 23-29, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION years. We are raising our two children in the North Smithfield school system. We have had the ability to travel many places in the world and that gives us a perspective as to the natural beauty North Smithfield holds. We have heard that the town has had the ability to purchase this land for quite some time but the opportunity might be lost at this point. As a young family it is very hard to keep up on the town issues. We try our best to stay informed but we only have so much time in our days and they are consumed with children, work, family and, when there is time, doing something good for others. I am sure that there are many families in town that have no idea about the Gold Forest and all that it has to offer for our community. Anyone who walks this land would want it pre- served; it is that beautiful. There is only so much land out there and if we do not preserve this for our community and future generations what are we doing for North Smithfield? Will we have the opportunity to purchase something like this again in the future, ready to be utilized because it has been maintained with a trail sys- tem? People choose to live in North Smithfield partly because it is not overly developed and there is land here where other communities are becoming more developed. The land can also benefit our school children with field trips, organizational groups such as scout- ing and our North Smithfield Cross Country teams for our middle and high schoolers. We wanted to share our concerns with this issue so that you know there are voters out there that truly support the purchase of this land. It is ready and waiting to be enjoyed by many in the town. We would all benefit from keeping this natural beauty in our town. GAYLE AND CRAIG MCMAHON North Smithfield GOLD LAND From Page 15 not listed in the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget released by Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt last week, City Council President Daniel Gendron told The Breeze the number was discussed dur- ing a closed meeting between the City Council and School Committee at the end of April. The council, he said, gave the School Committee until the end of May to negotiate a new contract based on the proposed increase with the intention of passing a budget in early June. Until then, the extra cash would remain unlisted in the city budget in order to avoid its being used for anything other than settling the contract. "If there's no signed and sealed contract, we're not going to do any- thing to increase the funding. They can wait as long as they want, but if we want the budget to be settled, we need to make sure that the money goes to the teachers," he said. The extra cash would represent the first increase in the local contribu- tion to the Education Department budget since 2013, when the city, then under the control of a state- appointed Budget Commission, hiked the local portion by 25 per- cent. Since then, it's remained steady at $16,166,330, a number that has become a target of WTG protests as the leveling off of state funding con- tinues to strain the budget. Though the exact terms of the con- tract were not known as of press time, School Committee Chairman Paul Bourget said last week the committee took the city's offer into account in their latest discussions with the WTG. In addition to the contract negotiations, city officials this year are grappling with the loss of approximately $1.5 million in real estate and tangible property taxes due to the nonprofit conver- sion of Landmark Medical Center. According to Baldelli-Hunt, the loss led to cost-cutting measures in departments across City Hall in the proposed 2020 budget, including the elimination of some positions she had previously championed, such as economic development director. In return, the mayor was able to keep avoid increases in the tax rate in her budget, with the proposed residential rate remaining steady at $24.08 per thousand dollars of value and the commercial rate dropping to $35.94 from $36.19. "Prime/Landmark is an important part of Woonsocket and is an asset for many of our residents, but they also are heavy users of many city services like police and fire protec- tion, rescue and road/sidewalk con- struction," Baldelli-Hunt noted in her budget proposal. "We will continue to seek legislative and judicial relief against Prime/Landmark's switch to a non-taxpaying entity." Residents next year will see the benefit of the state's continued phase- out of the motor vehicle tax, which is scheduled to drop from $46.58 to $35.00 per thousand. Baldelli-Hunt also noted the city's increasing costs related to pension obligations and employee healthcare. From the 2019 budget to the pro- posed 2020 budget, annual required contributions for municipal pension funds increased by approximately $595,000, and employee health insurance went up $392,000. "These two line items added nearly $1 million to our budget and to com- pensate for them, as well as for the lost tax revenues from the Prime/ Landmark not-for-profit conversion, we had to cut expenditure line items from across all of our departments to make them as lean as possible but still able to provide essential ser- vices," she said. Despite the cuts, the $145.9 mil- lion budget still contains several line items for improvements and main- tenance around the city, including $850,000 toward road reconstruction, $65,000 toward improvements at city parks, $200,000 toward blight removal (a smaller amount than in previous years), $50,000 toward an open space purchase at Holley Springs and $30,000 toward a dog park. The budget also contains $110,000 toward the purchase of new police vehicles and $24,000 toward grant writing services. In previous years, the budget process has stretched on into late June or early July as the mayor and councilors debate various line items in the proposal. Last year's process saw tensions between the mayor and council come to a head when a 4-3 majority of councilors passed their own version of the budget only to fail to garner the five votes necessary to override the mayor's veto. This year, both sides struck conciliatory notes in their comments ahead of the budget season, with Gendron saying he hopes to pass a budget by June 3. "Money's tight, and I just want to see that we don't waste time bicker- ing about things to the detriment of the taxpayer," he said. Baldelli-Hunt also referred to the disagreements of past years in her introductory comments, noting she removed some of the more conten- tious items from this year's proposal, including a chief of staff position and funding for the Woonsocket Redevelopment Agency. "It is my hope that we will con- clude this year's budget process with a consensus between the council and the administration," she said. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget next Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. in Harris Hall. BUDGET From Page One BALDELLI- HUNT The City Council will hold a public hearing on the budget Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m., in Harris Hall 1509 Mendon Road, Cumberland, RI 02864 401-333-7911 We would like to welcome Dr. Holly Brown to our staff. OPEN 7 DAYS Compassionate Care Veterinary Clinic 333-7911 Progressive Medicine in a Family Practice Atmosphere Open 7 days a week 1509 Walk-In Emergencies • Treating Small Mammals Hospitalization Facilities • Routine Exam Independently Owned & Operated by George & Malanie Loya Wood Blinds • Shutters • Roman Shades Woven Wood • Custom Drapery Top Treatments • Verticals and more! Local: 401-356-4770 Free Cordless Upgrade on all Cellular and Pleated Shades Until June 30, 2019 Banquet Rooms for any size party. Rehearsal Dinners & Bereavements New England Steak & Seafood Restaurant Route 16, Mendon, MA • 508-473-5079

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