Council approves 2014-15 budgetFinancial meeting is May 5
The Town Council breezed through its final public hearing on the municipal budget, with few comments from the audience and even fewer amendments to the line items themselves.
The final $12,547,668 budget was unanimously passed by the council and will be formally presented to the public at the town Financial Meeting on May 5 at 7 p.m. the Block Island School. The council also approved the language for the town warrant, which will also be voted on at the financial meeting. The budget reflects a 2.32 percent increase over last year’s total, which was $12,141,327.
The school budget was approved at $4.614 million.
There were a few minor adjustments. The budget for state and town roads have now been combined (the highways and maintenance budget is $863,675, an 8.1 percent increase over last year), and $22,000 was added to the contract services budget (originally recommended at $5,000) for the cemetery line item because the town had decided not to take over the mowing of that specific piece of property. (That line item is now $27,000.)
The council also voted to approve adding $20,000 to the medical center’s appropriation for a total of $143,800 to cover the cost of advertising and searching for a successor to Dr. Janice Miller, who will be stepping down on Dec. 1, 2014. Block Island Medical Center Executive Director Barbara Baldwin told the council that, after reviewing the last two searches for a new doctor, that costs for each search was about $20,000.
“I’ve drafted an advertisement and have gotten a handle on what the cost will be for advertising,” said Baldwin, which she said was “expensive.”
Baldwin and Fallon said that the going rate for family practice physician was $205,000 on the mainland, which was for 35 hours a week. The island physician is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and not paid as much. This led to a discussion about whether the free housing offered the island doctor would be an appealing factor for a candidate.
“What would you estimate the value of housing?” asked Councilor Chris Warfel.
“At this point, not much,” said Baldwin. The condition of the doctor’s house has been a topic of discussion the entire budget season.
Noting that the line item covering the cost of the maintenance of the doctor’s house — the topic of a great deal of discussion this budget season — was just $8,400, Warfel asked what “could be done of any significance for $8,400?”
“Bandaids,” said Councilor Norris Pike.
First Warden Kim Gaffett said there will in all likelihood be a separate bond item for full upgrades to the doctor’s house, which Pike said would be “pretty close to a gut job.”
“Major surgery,” said Gaffett, which Baldwin said was an appropriate description.
There was also some discussion about the fact that Block Island Recycling Management, which runs the town’s transfer station, had not requested any funds for upgrades to the infrastructure there. The line item for upgrades for 2014-15 is zero. (There was $49,000 appropriated for upgrades this year.)
“We did not have any requests for capital improvements,” said Town Manager Nancy Dodge, who added that the needs of the transfer station will be reviewed by the newly formed Planning Board subcommittee that will focus on the needs of all town-owned buildings and lands.
Hawkers and peddlars
There will be something new on the island this year: three new catering trucks located at familiar spots around town. The council has approved the licenses for the three and approved a $500 licensing fee for the new businesses.
The licenses were awarded to Cindy Kelly, who will be doing business as Pots and Kettles, will be located on Land Trust Land on West Side Road across from Legion Park. Andre Boudreau will be doing business as “Southeast Light Delights and will be located on lighthouse property just behind the fence that borders the parking lot. Ben Edwards, who has not yet named his business, will be located in the southwest corner of the Settler’s Rock area.