DTF to seek $40k funding from town
The Deer Task Force will ask the Town Council to fully fund the deer tail buy-back program from tax revenue in the next fiscal year. The program has been relying on private donations to pay the expenses that exceeded the town's annual appropriation.
The Task Force voted unanimously to formally request a $40,000 appropriation for the “Deer Management” line item in the Town's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018. The town previously allocated $13,000, which was approved at the Financial Town Meeting in 2016 and 2017.
“I think we can all agree this program has been a success,” said Becky Ballard, a member of the Task Force's finance subcommittee. “We've got something here, guys... People do see that the number of deer has gone down.”
Ballard quoted from a January 2017 Block Island Times article reporting that the Block Island Medical Center treated 46 tick-related disease cases in 2016, compared to 74 cases in 2015.
The reduction in cases “proves that the program is working,” Task Force member Paul Deane, who also is a member of the New Shoreham Police Department, said at that time.
At their recent meeting, member Bill McKernan stressed several benefits of reducing the deer herd as supporting continuation of the reimbursement program.
The presence of deer, he said, “is a public health threat. There are more vectors and diseases being discovered” associated with the deer and the parasites they host.
McKernan also cited “habitat destruction and property destruction” caused by deer.
Having approved the request to increase its budget, the DTF discussed whether to also continue its past fundraising. “The town should be paying for some of it,” Deane said.
“I think we want to do both things,” Chair Heather Hatfield replied.
Ballard noted, “It's harder and harder to go around” asking for donations,” adding, “The other side is, people who donated, have donated” for this specific program. Some donors have stated that they wanted their contributions to be used specifically for the buy-back and not for any other purpose, and the Task Force honors those intentions.
The group concurred with Hatfield and decided to go ahead with an appeal this year, to add to the amount available for the program. (Tax-deductible donations should be sent to the Town Finance Department, with “Payable to the Town of New Shoreham, Deer Task Force” in the memo line of the check.)
The deer tail buy-back program was originally funded by donations from the public to the town government, supplemented by tax revenue in recent years. While the town has budgeted $13,000 in tax revenue for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 fiscal years (and the same amount for the current year, ending in June 2018), the program's expenses above those appropriations have been paid by the accumulated donations.
Clerk Bonny Ryan reported to the Task Force that the Town paid out $35,000 for deer tags in the fiscal year ended June 2017. She said that the amount available for the buy-back program in the current fiscal year beginning July 2017 is $45,229, which includes the remaining donations as well as the $13,000 approved in the current year’s budget.
According to the budget documents presented to the voters at the May 2017 Financial Town Meeting, the actual expenses for deer management were $11,307 in 2013-2014, $71,240 in 2014-2015, and $39,213 in 2015-2016, for a three-year average expense of $40,586.
The DTF is planning to present its 2018-2019 request to the Town Council in November, before the budget development season begins in January.
Hunting season begins Oct. 10
For the safety of the public, the Task Force urges people to wear orange clothing during hunting season.
Block Island's deer hunting season begins on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Archery is the only type of hunting allowed until Oct. 31. Archery, shotgun and muzzle-loaded hunting begins on Nov. 1 and runs through Feb. 16. Hunting is not allowed on weekends. The complete schedule is posted on the DTF's page on the town's web site (www.new-shoreham.com).
Town ordinances require hunters to have written permission from and direct contact with the owner of private property to hunt deer on their land. The required permission slip will be posted on the DTF's web page, Ryan said. Hunters must take the form to the Police Chief for a final signoff.
Deane explained that landowners must give permission to each hunter each year, because the owner's circumstances may change, or the property may be sold. And, he reminded the members, “The hunter is supposed to have the permission slip on their person” when they are hunting on private property. The NSPD keeps a file of the authorized properties and hunters.
The next meeting of the Deer Task Force will be on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 5 p.m., at the Town Hall, to prepare its presentation to the Town Council in November. The DTF will meet on Tuesday, Dec. 19, also at 5 p.m., to debrief the meeting with the Town Council and to begin discussing the 2018-2019 hunting season dates.