Town Council Hears Requests For New Trucks, Main Street Flowers And Dogs
Final department head presentations May 7th at 7:30 p.m. in the Swift Community Center
For the second night in a row, the Town Council met Tuesday to work on the 2013 budget, first hearing requests for flowers for Main Street and for additional money for the EG Animal Protection League before reviewing the public works and IT budgets.
Under the $50 million budget proposed by Town Manager Bill Sequino last month, residents would see a tax rate increase of between 2.4 percent to 2.8 percent. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Animal Protection League President Tammy Flanagan and League member Carl Hoyer asked the council to restore their annual allocation back to $25,000 from the $15,000 currently received. Flanagan said the volunteer 501C3 organization spends some $100,000 a year taking care of stray dogs and cats as well as animals for which owners can no long provide care. It costs $355 a month to take care of a cat, she said.
Council President Mike Isaac said the Animal Protection League saves the town money and he would like to see some of their funding restored. East Greenwich has no pound.
Chamber of Commerce President Karl Brother, Executive Director Steve Lombardi and Merchants spokeswoman Diane Villari asked the council to restore funding for street light banners and hanging flower baskets. The banners would cost around $2,000 and buying the flowers and keeping them watered is estimated at $6.350. A decision was tabled until their meeting on Monday.
Later, during his report, Public Works Director Joe Duarte told the council the flowers were normally ordered in February and that he thought the cost would be higher than what had been presented. He said the hanging baskets had to be watered daily, including weekends and holidays, which resulted in the $5,000 labor cost.
Duarte parked two 1999 dump trucks and a 2001 street sweeper in front of the Swift Community Center so counselors could see why his segment of the budget included up to $105,000 each to replace the trucks and a similar amount for a new sweeper.
The Public Works budget also includes $75,000 for a new bus for the Senior Services program. He said the current bus looks all right, but damage and wear to the undercarriage will probably keep it from passing the next inspection. It is hoped some of the cost can be offset with Community Development Block Grant Funds and successful applications to several foundations.
The town has $1.2 million in its vehicle replacement fund, which would be used to make these purchases along with the purchase of five new police vehicles.
Durate told the Council his department is working to hold down costs by taking on more projects in house and shuffling staff to maximize their use.
Town IT Director Wendy Schmidle told council members her budget projects included a closer working relationships with the school department’s IT director and the EG Fire District. They are talking about avoiding duplication with a long-range plan to build infrastructure, including connecting the 15 buildings used by the school system, town and fire district.
The current property tax rate is $17.49 per thousand of assessed property value. Using current property values, the tax rate would go up to between $17.91 and $17.99 a thousand, depending on what the council decides to leave in or take out of the budget. However the town just completed a property revaluation and like most communities values have dropped. With home values down, the tax rate will go up, probably to $20.10 a thousand according to Town Manager Bill Sequino.
By town charter, the budget needs to be approved by the council by May 15. At the annual Financial Town Meeting (this year slated for June 12), the budget goes before voters for a straight up or down vote — if the meeting has a quorum. There has been no quorum in recent years. If there is no quorum, the budget passes as is.
The Town Council meets again next Monday, May 7, for more budget discussions.