Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 06-06-2019

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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NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | JUNE 6-12, 2019 NORTH SMITHFIELD 5 NORTH SMITHFIELD – Despite a drop in the proposed tax rates, commercial and residential taxpay- ers could see their taxes go up under the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget thanks to a 2018 revaluation that saw a spike in property values around town. Under a budget proposal prepared by Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, the town's overall tax levy would increase by 3.93 percent, just short of the 4 percent cap imposed by state law. Tax rates under that budget would drop from $17.24 to $16.34 for residential property and $19.13 to $18.13 for commercial property. However, with 97 percent of the town's properties seeing an increase in value during the last statistical revalu- ation, those numbers could spell an increase for many in town. According to the results of the statistical revalua- tion released in February, residential property values rose 20 percent on average from 2015, while commer- cial property values rose 10 percent. That translates to a $162,947,066 boost in the total assessment of tax- able residential property in town and a $25,250,751 increase in the total assessment of commercial property. The Budget Committee's 2020 pro- posal, submitted to the Town Council Monday night, offers a more modest increase, recommending a 3.13 per- cent increase in the overall tax levy. That number is based on a $44.9 mil- lion budget, compared with the cur- rent year's $44 million. According to Ezovski, the increase is due to a significant drop in revenue following a tangible tax reporting error by National Grid, the non- profit conversion of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island and Stanley Tree Service's move to Smithfield. Taken together, those three factors account for about $1 million in lost revenue as the town faces an approxi- mately 2 percent spending increase. "It piles up to be a lot of money that won't repeat," he said. The budget presented by the Budget Committee Monday night includes a 2.48 percent increase in the local appropriation for the schools, the same amount recommended by Ezovski. In their budget, the School Department requested the maximum 4 percent increase for the school bud- get alone, partly to offset a steep drop in state education funding. From 2019 to 2020, state education aid to the town is expected to decrease by more than 6 percent, even more than the 3.7 percent decrease originally pro- jected when budget discussions began earlier this year. As noted by the Budget Committee, the 4 percent ask comes after School Department administrators made approximately $1.1 million in direct cuts to their previous budget, deny- ing staff requests and also factoring in a $345,000 decrease in costs due to the scheduled closing of Halliwell Elementary School. Most of the requested increase, they noted, was dedicated to increases in salaries and benefits, leaving little room for addi- tional resources. Members of the Budget Committee asked the School Department to cre- ate a three to five year forecast and also earmark $50,000 in reserved funds toward program development to attract out-of-district students to the district's new career and technical education (CTE) pro- grams. From last year to the current year, the number of North Smithfield students attending out-of-district char- ter schools and CTE programs rose from 56 to 78, further straining an already tight budget. While the town administrator and Budget Committee agreed on a recommended increase for the schools, the two budgets differ in their approach to post-employment benefit accounts and capital expenditures, accounting for a $94,000 difference. The Budget Committee's version recommends funding only two new SUVs for the Police Department instead of three, reserving half the cost of a third for next year, and holds the town's contribution to its other post-employment benefits steady at $200,000. Ezovski's budget, by comparison, increases the town's contribution to $250,000, an increase he defended as necessary for the town's future planning. "I believe that's the kind of deci- sion-making that ultimately puts com- munities in the kind of circumstances that everyone looks at and says, how did we get here?" he said about the Budget Committee's decision not to increase the contribution. In addition to the change in tax rates, the proposed budget would result in $19.46 increase in the sewer rate, making the annual charge $527.99 per equivalent dwelling unit. The water rate would increase by 53 cents per thousand gallons, bringing the rate to $7.64, as the town brings a water line extension to Mechanic Street and Old Great Road. Revenue from future user connections is expected to offset part of the cost of the extension, but only after the new homes have connected. Drop in revenue spells tax increase in proposed 2020 budget By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer EZOVSKI Hand bell choir performs at Slatersville Congregational NORTH SMITHFIELD – Slatersville Congregational Church UCC, 25 Greene St., will host the Merrimack Valley Ringers for a con- cert on Saturday, June 8, at 7 p.m. The Merrimack Valley Ringers are a hand bell choir founded in 2002 by artistic director Karen Leonard that includes former North Smithfield resident Cathy Cormier Seiler. The evening will begin with a pasta din- ner at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the concert only and $25 for both concert and dinner. Tickets can be purchased by calling 401-769-2773 or 401-769-9617. IN BRIEF

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