The Block Island Times

Council tackles administration, library budgets

By Stephanie Turaj | Apr 08, 2013
Photo by: Kari Curtis

The Town Council focused its 2014 budget discussions this week on the town’s administration and technology expenses, as well as several community expenses including the Island Free Library.

Of a $12 million proposed 2014 town budget — $8.5 million that would come from town taxpayers — the council at its April 3 meeting discussed slightly more than $1 million in administration costs.

The administration budget includes a variety of town expenses, most significantly property and flood insurance, clerk wages and town consultant costs.

Property and flood insurance costs are proposed at $248,344, which is a 27 percent increase over last year’s budgeted amount of $195,000. Town Manager Nancy Dodge said that insurance costs are expected to rise.

The town spent more than it had budgeted for more than fiscal year 2013. As of December 2012, insurance costs were $215,951.

Other administration costs include clerk wages, which have been proposed at $176,043, a slight increase over last year’s $166,061. Town Clerk Fiona Fitzpatrick requested that the council add into the budget increased hours for a part-time clerk.

There are four town clerks, with two working part-time. Fitzpatrick said that one part-time clerk position was originally full-time, but that position was reduced to 15 hours per week.

“It’s not enough hours,” she said. “We’re getting our day-to-day work done, but we don’t have enough time to concentrate on the long-term projects.”

Town Manager Dodge disagreed with Fitzpatrick, saying that a study had been performed to determine the proper hours needed for clerks. Members of the council did not make a decision on Fitzpatrick’s request at the meeting, but had suggestions about how to improve the situation. Councilor Chris Warfel suggested that the clerks offer various licences or permits on a set schedule, instead of the community requesting them on an as-needed basis.

Also at the budget hearing, the council discussed the $468,766 slated for the Island Free Library. This amount is a 10 percent increase over last year’s $426,152 budgeted amount. Library Director Kristin Baumann said that the amount is mostly due to building and equipment maintenance.

Later in the meeting, the council discussed various capital improvements the town also plans to fund in the 2014 budget. The HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system would receive $25,000 in upgrade funds, and there is $15,500 proposed for installation of exterior library book return drops.

The library currently has book drops installed in the building’s doors, said Baumann, but for safety reasons it is advisable to move the book drops to the exterior. Town councilor Sean McGarry said that the $15,500 seems expensive to install two book drops.

There are also various technology capital projects the town has slated to fund, totaling $45,000.

The council heard the town technology budget, which is separate from the capital funding. Technology expenses are proposed at $139,688, an 11 percent increase over last year.

The cost paid to the town technology consultant is proposed at $54,000, a 17 percent increase over last year’s $45,935. “That’s a pretty significant increase,” said McGarry.

Town technology consultant Michele Spero said that the increase is due to the town’s increased technology projects that are meant to “streamline” the town’s work or providing the public improved services.

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