Council reviews community support, library, police budgets
Representatives of island organizations expressed similar concerns in budget cuts and requests for Fiscal Year 2021.
Departments were invited to share their thoughts and requests through the telecommunication Budget Work Session held by the Town Council on Monday, June 15. The departments reviewed by the council included: Block Island Health Services, Island Free Library, Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Block Island Early Learning Center, Senior Advisory Committee, National Alliance on Mental Illness Block Island, Block Island School, and the Visitor Center.
Senior Advisory Committee
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $23,100, with the town recommending the group be level-funded for 2021 at $23,100.
Senior Advisory Committee Co-Chair Sandra Kelly told the council she hoped that the line item could be restored to their original request of $28,000. “I just want to say we requested $28,000. I would like to request from the Senior Advisory Committee, if there would be some monies to return us to $28,000 or as close to that as possible,.” said Kelly, who added that the reduced funding “will limit covering our senior ride service, our exercise programs, social programs. We would certainly appreciate a little more funding.”
National Alliance on Mental Illness - BI
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $10,000, but the town has recommended that no monies be allocated this year.
President Jim Hinthorn spoke on behalf of the island-based chapter.
“We are a non-profit organization to facilitate behavioral health to the island. We have, in the past, last few years, received $10,000 to cover the costs of [Telemedicine coordinator] Tracy Fredericks, who last year moved over to the Medical Center, and that money went with her. We were supportive of that, but what we are now looking at is our other programs. Because of the past history, its been determined our summer worker population is at high risk for behavioral health issues. The local chapter of NAMI wants to address those issues and we are seeking funds for printing and distributing educational materials that address resources. What we are asking for is $3,000… But with most organizations, it’s been an interesting year for us,” said Hinthorn.
Block Island Health Services
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $300,000, with the proposed allocation for Fiscal Year 2021 at $310,000.
“I’m very happy to see we are level funded for this year. Obviously, our costs aren’t going to go down significantly this year. We know what the costs of providing medical service to Block Island are, and our biggest concern is the drop in revenue from reduced visitors, tourists, and workers. We have had some help through the Payroll Protection Act… it’s going to be difficult to do the fundraising part. We are hopeful the town will continue to level fund us,” said B.I.H.S. Treasurer Pete Tweedy.
Block Island School
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $5,070,965, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $5,172,384.
“The school did have an initial request, I believe a 3.2 percent increase, that’s the $5.23 million. We have reduced their request down further to $5.172 million, which represents a two percent increase of the current year’s funding level,” said Finance Director Amy Land.
Block Island School Committee member Jessica Willi said the School Committee had gone from a proposed nine percent increase to the budget down to their request of a 3.2 percent increase. “We got it all the way down to 3.2 percent with cuts to various programming. We have not seen exactly what is going to happen by bringing it from the 3.2 percent down to the two percent. I can assume it’s going to be fairly serious programs or staffing cuts. It will be interesting to see where The Town Council prioritizes that money,” said Willi. According to the budget process, the council will vote on their version of the municipal budget, which will then be passed to town voters at the Financial Town Meeting, which is now scheduled for Monday, July 27.
Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $180,400, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $180,400.
“I just wanted to point out to anyone that the recommended funding for Fiscal Year 2021 is $180,400 — level from the current year. The request from [Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue] was $214,840. There is a gap there between… what we are able to fund,” said Land.
The town has in previous years funded a line item to provide a small stipend to the first responders who go on emergency calls, but this year the town has proposed the line item be defunded.
Assistant Chief Bain Transue asked the council to “compensate people if they so choose to go on alarm calls.”
Island Free Library
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $519,778, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $516,458.
“If you recall last time, we talked about the part-time position that was planned to be implemented in Fiscal Year 2020 — we held off on that and we are not showing that position to be funded in 2021… eventually if we are back at full service level the library will need to discuss that position again,” said Land.
Island Free Library Director Kristin Baumann shared her input on behalf of the library staff.
“I would add that, the library is happy to participate in this difficult year and do what we can. As the director of the staff, I hope we don’t get to no raises for the staff” and she asked for “some way to work the middle ground an approach for the future for guaranteeing raises,” said Baumann.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $0, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $10,000. The $10,000 for Fiscal Year 2021, as confirmed by Town Manager Jim Kern, would be used for the Chamber of Commerce to run and oversee the Visitor Center.
Block Island Early Learning Center
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $147,785, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $147,785.
No representatives called in to share their thoughts on the budget for 2021.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2020 was $1,020,546, with the revised number for Fiscal Year 2021 at $1,128,350.
Because the police department is seeing an increase, Second Warden André Boudreau asked Kern if the council could have a discussion with police representatives.
“That’s something we are going to speak about in closed session,” said Kern.
Andy’s Way boardwalk
Councilor Sven Risom addressed the implementation of a boardwalk at Andy’s Way, to improve beach access and parking. The project was awarded a $47,000 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
“It is in essence to fund a walkway that would be more of a structure [similar to] Mosquito Beach… I think we should absolutely move forward with it,” said Risom.
First Warden Ken Lacoste made a motion to approve and authorize the contract for the new boardwalk and beach access improvement at Aandy’s Way.
The Town Council will be holding a Budget Public Hearing on Monday, June 22.