Voters approve $15 million town budget at FTM

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 7:15pm

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday night in the Block Island School’s cafeteria, Town Moderator Molly O’Neill tested the microphone at the dais to see if anyone could hear her. After some adjustments were made, O’Neill began rattling off the language imbued in the Town of New Shoreham’s warrant for the annual Financial Town Meeting.

Without a hitch, an audience of 95 registered town voters gave their verbal approval of all of the items comprising the warrant, including approval of the fiscal year 2020 operating and capital budget of $14,996,003, which represents a $466,928 increase, or 3 percent, over the FY 2019 budget.

The budget that was approved includes a 1.4 percent increase in the tax levy, or $379,388, which totals four percent of the budget, with a total tax levy budget of $10,713,284.

Approval of the budget includes full funding requests for three organizations under community support: $300,000 for the Block Island Medical Center, $180,400 for the Block Island Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, and $23,100 for the Senior Advisory Committee. The total budget for community support, which includes the school, is $5,754,711, an increase of $268,760, or five percent over 2019.

Despite a request to modify the budget to add $20,000 for funding staff for the Chamber of Commerce to manage the Visitor’s Center, which was not approved, the FTM was adjourned in a little over an hour’s time. Not since 2016 has there been an absence of big-ticket items on the warrant, while last year there were three: $2 million for the West Beach stabilization project, $1.5 million for the Thomas Property project, and $550,000 for the Community Anchor Institution broadband network.

During Monday night’s meeting, O’Neill read the warrant item by item, calling for a motion, before asking if anyone from the public had any questions. There were very few. Assistant Moderator Pat Doyle also presented a few items on the warrant.

The biggest item that was approved by voters was $1 million in borrowing authorization to finance potential road and bridge improvements. Voters also approved borrowing authorization for no more than $400,000 for the Sewer Department and no more than $200,000 for the Water Company.

Finance Director Amy Land called the town’s financial position “strong.” The report included the town’s budget for the year-to-date ending on June 30, 2019, which is $14,032,776. 

Voters approved the Medical Center’s report provided by Block Island Health Services for calendar year 2018, and its full funding of $300,000.

Voters approved the Block Island Housing Board’s report for FY 2018, from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, which noted the following successes: Harbor Church affordable apartment project; Ocean View Foundation’s affordable housing project; and the Cherry Hill Lane project. The board’s report notes its net assets as $450,849.36.

Voters approved the Block Island Land Trust’s report for FY 2019, which notes a fund balance of $3,648,384.19 for the year-to-date ending on March 31, 2019.

Voters authorized the Town Council to enact ordinances as they may think proper, to protect and regulate the taking of shellfish and other fish in the Great Salt Pond, and to impose penalties, not exceeding $200 and three months imprisonment for any one offense.

Voters authorized the Town Council to make expenditures of certain appropriations, which are due to circumstances that could not be anticipated in budget preparations for FY 2019, provided that the over expenditures do not exceed the total budget amount for FY 2019. The Town Council is also authorized to expend grant funds applied for and awarded to the Town of New Shoreham.