Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 06-07-2018

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 26 of 63

CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | JUNE 7-13, 2018 CUMBERLAND 27 of press time whether he would veto the budget. The $359,000 portion of Schmitt's amendment will increase the pro- jected tax hike by about eight cents from the $15.80 residential tax rate Murray initially proposed, or about $20 per year, said Schmitt. Prior to the amendment, Murray's bud- get carried a 38-cent tax increase. The mayor said the latest numbers available prior to Wednesday's vote was that the new projected tax rate, which won't be finalized until next year, would be $15.94, six cents high- er than the $15.88 figure estimated last week. Schmitt said he understands an extra few cents on the tax rate is real money to many people, and while it's not easy to increase taxes, "I think it's necessary." The $300,000 won't increase the rate because it was already budgeted this year and the payment simply hasn't arrived yet. With last week's vote, the council simply made an advance payment. Murray, who had said he would hand over the $300,000 once the rebate came in, clarified that he was intending for it to become part of the schools' bot- tom line. Finance Director Jason Parmelee said the $300,000 was included in the $1 million increase the administration proposed for the schools. School leaders criticized the pro- cess, saying they need to be able to count on money coming to them when it's promised. Supt. Bob Mitchell said last year's conversa- tions were clear that the $300,000 was intended to help fix the schools' funding gap when comparing it to other districts. Business Manager Alex Prignano, responding to questions about wheth- er the schools would rather have the $300,000 in the 2017-2018 budget, said he would prefer to have it in the coming budget. Prignano and Mitchell said their frustration revolves around not being able to take care of "extra" issues in schools, such as fixing a stage or addressing the high school pool's problems, because they can't always count on money coming in when it's promised. Councilor Tom Kane said the council was put on "cleanup duty," apologizing to school officials for the frustration. Councilor Lisa Beaulieu said having the $300,000 includ- ed in two budgets without having it in hand left officials in a bind. Kane said he and other council mem- bers tried to forewarn everyone when officials passed "a very tight (tax) levy for next year that there wouldn't be a lot of wiggle room to satisfy school needs." Because of the 2017-2018 levy increase of .89 per- cent offered by Murray, officials were left in a "very uncomfortable" place, he said. Using surplus funds to balance the budget is "not good financial management of the town," he said, and leaves officials "so far behind where we need to be" to make added expenditures. Beaulieu said the coun- cil was a participant in setting the levy where it was, and "we're going to have to address when we fail." Murray responded that it's his duty as mayor to keep taxes as low as pos- sible, and he said the matter of the $300,000 did not represent a "broken promise." Officials simply pledged to give the money when it came in, he noted. Schmitt agreed that he didn't think there was a broken promise on the National Grid rebate, saying no one thought it would take so long for the money to arrive. Schmitt said the final $25,000 gap couldn't be closed without reducing municipal spending by that same amount. Councilor Bob Shaw thanked Schmitt for his amendment "from the bottom of my heart." The council often struggles to come to conclusions on school funding, said Beaulieu, but in this case, parties came together to do what was right. Councilor Craig Dwyer, a Murray ally, was the only no vote on the Schmitt amendment. Kane cuts anger mayor Kane, a political foe of Murray's, proposed a number of cuts to the town side of the budget that had the mayor accusing the councilman of more attacks on his administration. Kane asked Council President Peter Bradley for a point of order, saying this wasn't the mayor's chance to belittle him. "I would never belittle you, Mr. Kane, you're too sharp," Murray responded. Kane responded that he also didn't feel like being insulted. Among the changes approved by the council, several by narrow votes, were: • Reducing the mayor's office contingency account from $5,000 to zero, travel and convention spend- ing from $500 to zero, and education and training from $5,000 to zero. The contingency item is for costs such as the staff Christmas party Murray hosts each year. The cut passed by a 4-3 vote, with Kane, Bradley, Shaw and Beaulieu voting yes. • Reducing the town clerk line item for office equipment repairs from $250 to zero, and office equipment line from $500 to zero. • Reducing the legal department's line item for dues and subscriptions from $800 to $500. • Cutting the zoning department's office supply budget from $500 to $250. • Slashing $6,000 in money bud- geted for intern pay in the planning department to $1,000. Assistant Solicitor Chris Alger said the money ends up saving the department sub- stantial money. Kane responded that only $600 of the line item has been expended this year. • Reducing the assessor's depart- ment line item for office equipment from $500 to zero, supplies from $2,500 to $2,000, travel and conven- tions from $1,000 to zero, computer equipment from $3,000 to $1,500, and computer expense from $2,000 to $500, for a total of $5,000. Murray responded that he didn't know where the council was going with its cuts, saying the assessor's office is doing a lot of work it didn't do in the past. "We're trying to run a town here," BUDGET From Page 3 KANE MURRAY See CUTS, Page 28 NORTH SMITHFIELD AUTO BODY, Inc. 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