If the Brownies of Frenchtown Troop 285 hadn’t sung the National Anthem and God Bless America, might have found himself with 15 minutes to fill before being able to close the Town Meeting at 7:30 for lack of a quorum.
As it was, when the school and town presentations concluded there were no questions from the audience and it was only 7:28. A sympathetic audience member asked how things are going with New England Tech and Town Council President Mike Isaacs used up two minutes with his answer.
At 7:30 Patti announced there were 54 voters in attendance, short of the 250 need to make any changes in the budget and announced that it was accepted as presented.
With a cost of around $2,500 and lack of a quorum for several years, there have been suggestions that maybe it is time for change.
Acknowledging that it might be time to take another look at the Town Meeting format, Isaacs said he was not disappointed with the low turnout and felt it showed residents are generally satisfied with how things are being run. The Town Council hasn’t taken a look at the Town Meeting for several years and Isaacs said it may be something that should be explored.
Public comment is accepted at all budget hearings leading up to the Town Meeting there is a separate pubic hearing.
School Committee Chairman Deidre Gifford said the meeting format had been changed a couple of times in the past and she sees value in continuing the meeting in spite of sparse attendance.
“While it is a mechanism that may not be used every year,” she said, “it is a mechanism that could be used if people wanted to rally to change the budget.”
In their presentations Isaacs and Gifford outlined the numbers that make up the proposal for the combined town and school budgets of $50,680,585, an increase of 3.4 percent, resulting in a property tax levy of $20.14 per thousand.
With revaluation property values are down, so the levy per thousand has to go up to make the budget work. Without revaluation the levy would have been $18.04 per thousand, generating the same income.
While some property owners will see tax increases, the levy for many will stay the same and there will be some reductions.
As a residential community East Greenwich is heavily reliant on the property tax, which accounts for 90 percent of revenue.
In his remarks Isaacs pointed out the town is fortunate to have a strong restaurant component and benefits from the meals tax.
He said the town has fewer employees today than seven years ago and the proposed budget has no salary increases for town employees.
Gifford said teachers will receive the step increases in their contract, but no cost of living increases. She pointed out the district's per pupil cost is $14,103 while the state average is $15,318.
In East Greenwich there is also a property tax levy for the independent fire district, and Isaacs reminded the audience of that Financial Town Meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, June 18, at the Swift Community Center.