Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 06-25-2020

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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6 FOSTER / SMITHFIELD JUNE 25-JULY 1, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER FOSTER – Town Moderator Robert Boyden sat atop a plat- form covered in hay bales in the town's first-ever 1950s style drive- up Financial Town Meeting last Saturday. Cars pulled in to the Foster Fairgrounds at 10 a.m., and voting residents received wristbands to stick out car windows when casting a vote. Though temperatures were raised, tempers were not, and the FTM went off without a glitch taking less than 30 minutes from start to finish. In the end, taxpayers approved the $14.67 million budget without changes. The 1.27 percent tax increase amounts brings the property tax rate to $23.77 per $1,000 of assessed value on real estate, and $32.70 per $1,000 of assessed value for personal property. The current tax rate is $23.69 per $1,000 assessed value of real estate and $32.59 of $1,000 assessed value of tangible property. The 2020-2021 motor vehicle tax levy includes a rate of $35 per $1,000 of assessed value, which includes the exemption amount provided by the state's vehicle tax phase-out. Town Council President Denise DiFranco explained that the budget was reduced significantly following the COVID-19 outbreak. "It was a difficult task to create a budget that would allocate enough money to provide immediate ser- vices to town and minimize the immediate impact to the taxpayer," DiFranco said. Despite the efforts across all departments to make "significant cuts," DiFranco said the 1.27 tax increase could not be avoided. "When you are voting on this bud- get, keep in mind that an increase in the budget impacts the tax rate, a decrease impacts the services pro- vided," she said. The Department of Education asked for a $134,874 increase in the budget for Foster Schools, and $1,460 for the regional school dis- trict. Isaac Paine Elementary School sought a 6 percent increase but lowered its budget to a 4 percent increase from last year. The schools' allocation of $8.9 million is 62 percent of Foster's 2020- 2021 budget. The regional school FTM was can- celed in March due to coronavirus and was approved by the council with state approval. The state requested that the district reduce the budget by approximately $120,000, saving Foster $40,000, resulting in a 0.03 percent increase. DiFranco said the budget the coun- cil considered in March is much dif- ferent than the budget presented last Saturday. She and Councilor Cheryl Hawes thanked town employees for agreeing to a one-year pay freeze alongside municipal union workers. DiFranco said the DPW, town clerk's office, police, dispatch, and all department heads agreed to a one- year pay freeze, drawing applause from residents. Waste removal service provider Rambone agreed to a freeze at the cost of 2020 rates as well. "The council wants to thank all of them for all of the concessions," DiFranco said. DiFranco explained the $14.67 mil- lion included $216,261 in operating expenditures. It includes a $19,430 increase in general government expenditures related to an increase in medical and property liability insurance, technology expenses and the upcoming presidential and state election. She said the $18,340 increase in the DPW budget is due to an increase in medical and dental insur- ance and the cost of waste removal. She said despite the freeze in costs, she would be remiss not to remind Foster residents to be mindful of what is recycled and what is thrown in the trash. Tax bills will go out soon, with quarterly installments due beginning July 15, then Oct. 15, Jan. 15, and April 15. Foster approves budget at drive-up meeting By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer SMITHFIELD – The Charter Review Commission is making its final decisions on proposed changes to the Town Charter this week. Of those recommended changes, Chairman Al Costantino said remov- ing the old-time practice of a Financial Town Meeting may be the most practical. The practice seems impracti- cal, especially after dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, where the town has not been able to hold a meeting due to social distancing, he said. "If we get this approved, there will be no FTM next year. If this gets approved," he said. According to Costantino, the process has been a lot of work but the commit- ted members of the committee took the job seriously. Once completed, the committee will hold a public workshop with the Town Council on June 30 to discuss the pro- posed changes. Likely changes include switching the town government head from an appointed town manager to an elected administrator, forgoing the FTM for a financial review board and budget committee, setting staggered term lim- its for Town Council members, estab- lishing a capital committee for future infrastructure needs, and creating a management internal control program to ensure accurate reporting to the council. Language outlining the switch to an elected town administrator has not been finalized yet, Costantino said. After meetings this week, he expects a clearer understanding of the role, including term limits and political affili- ations. Costantino says he feels strongly that the town would be better run with an elected official who "works for the peo- ple" as in other towns such as Lincoln. "I don't know about this town. I see how Lincoln operates, and it operates a lot better than Smithfield," he said. Following a June 30 workshop, the Town Council will hold a public hear- ing to discuss the proposed charter changes. The council may choose to approve changes to be sent to the bal- lot in November. Costantino anticipates the public hearing to be held during the council's first meeting next month on July 14. Charter Review Commission nears finish line By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD Valley Breeze& Observer Staff Writer PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE CHIPPENDALE Cars line up at Foster's 1950s style drive-thru FINANCIAL TOWN MEETING last Saturday while Town Moderator and Board of Canvas members sit behind hay bales while reading off the budget. S STANLEY TREE • Professional High Quality Service At Reasonable Rates • Licensed Arborists • Serving RI & Nearby M ass. • Our Team Of Professionals Is Fully Equipped To Handle Your Job In A Safe Efficient Manner Fully Insured Free Estimates N. 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