The Town of New Shoreham budget season is drawing to a close with just one more final public hearing to be held by the Town Council on Monday, April 17 and a “warrant adoption” on April 19. The budget then goes to Financial Town Meeting on Monday, May 1 for voter approval.
So far there has been little in the way of fireworks this season. The budget overall will increase by 4.7 percent ($804,812), and the tax levy will increase by four percent, the maximum amount allowable by state law.
Town Manager Maryanne Crawford, in the narrative accompanying the budget, writes: “Significant drivers of the FY24 budget include full implementation of three positions introduced in FY23 (Director of Human Services, Director of Human Resources, Librarian – Young Adult Services) as well as funding for the Director of Public Works, contractual wage adjustments, and support of the Block Island School.”
A director of human services has just been hired and will begin work out of an office at Town Hall. Her name is Kim Einloth and she has “33 years of supporting people with disabilities, as well as her interactions with various state and federal agencies…” Crawford wrote when making her recommendation on her appointment to the Town Council earlier this month.
Einloth has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Rhode Island and left her position as chief operating office for the Perspectives Corporation in North Kingston in January 2023. She has also been a contractor with the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College since June 2021.
The six-year capital budget plan is where the town outlines its plans for the future, and for fiscal year 2024, the amount budgeted for improvements is $1,385,000. On Wednesday, April 11, Crawford presented the capital improvement plan to the Planning Board, which has responsibility of acting on the plan’s consistency with the town’s Comprehensive Plan.
Crawford told the new members of the Planning Board that previously, each town department would submit its capital requests to the Planning Board. She said that former Town Manager Ed Roberge had suggested the requests go to the finance director and town manager first. Crawford said an ordinance to that effect was passed last year, and added that the department heads had been asked to come up with both mid- and long-range plans.
As far as the Planning Board assessing the budget’s consistency with the Comprehensive Plan, Vice-Chair Gail Ballard Hall said, “We haven’t had a lot of time to review it.”
Member Chris Willi, in looking at the plan said: “There’s nothing here to [indicate when a project was initiated] or if something was asked for. I want to know what they are asking for and not getting… what cans got kicked down the road.”
Member Clair Stover Comings said she would like to know “where pools of funding are coming from.”
Crawford said, “For the most part, everything the department heads asked for is included in this.”
“The one exception,” said Town Finance Director Amy Land, “is a medical center generator.” That cost was estimated at $125,000.
On tap for F/Y 2024 are several projects and all but one are estimated to cost at most $75,000. The one outlier is $1 million for the Thomas property across from the school where the town plans to replace the existing house that currently has two housing units, and add another building with two more apartments for a total of four new housing units. Three will be two-bedroom, and one will be a one-bedroom.
Later in the Planning Board’s meeting, Facilities Manager Tom Risom told the board that there were economies in building both projects concurrently, especially when it came to having a crane come to the island.
Other 2024 projects include $75,000 in renovations to the motor pool facility at the Coast Guard Station, $30,000 for interior work at the library, and $50,000 for improvements at the North Light.
The Police Department is budgeted for $60,000 for “communications.” One thing they are planning for is police body cameras. Crawford said the cameras, which will be paid for by a grant, are the least of the expense, with the accompanying software making up the bulk of the cost.
The Harbors Department will get support for a number of projects, including replacing the Coast Guard Station dock ($25,000), dredging of the New Harbor inner channel ($15,000), a new truck ($60,000) and an oil spill containment boom ($40,000).
Willi asked about the replacement of boat motors, and Land replied that because of an increase in the threshold of what was considered a capital asset, those costs were in the department’s operating budget.
Of the total 2024 capital budget, $385,000 will be funded by taxes, and the $1 million for the Thomas property will be bonded.
Willi also noticed that fiscal year 2025 is particularly meaty. The total in capital expenditures for that year is $41,766,667. Of that, $20 million is expected to come from “outside funding,” for the road improvement project and new highway garage facility.
The town hopes to secure other grants as well for F/Y 2025 projects, including the public safety complex (cost $11 million) and a harbors facility ($8 million).
Planning Board members Socha Cohen and Mary Anderson, who both also serve on the Sea Level Rise Committee asked that in planning the facilities, the town consider the impact of sea level rise.
Cohen also said she would like to see new town buildings “absorb housing.”
Crawford said all the new town buildings would incorporate housing on the second floor, including the highways maintenance facility. That building will be paid for with moneys from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, although the housing portion will be paid by the town.
The final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Monday, April 17, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.