Posted 4/15: Council revises budget to increase revenue by $100KProposes to tax vehicles valued at $1,000 and above
The Town Council has amended its preliminary fiscal year 2014 budget by adding $102,588 to about $2 million in revenues generated from proposed increased harbors fees, buildings permits, vehicle taxes and recreation rentals.
The council will finalize the preliminary budget at a public hearing Monday, April 15. If approved, the budget will be presented to town voters at the financial town meeting in May.
In the $12,141,327 budget, town taxpayers are proposed to contribute $8,612,958 — right at the maximum 4 percent tax levy increase allowed by state law.
The council reviewed the changes to the budget at its Wednesday, April 10, meeting. It chose to allocate the additional revenue to various areas, which most notably included a new trash compactor for the town Transfer Station ($49,000) rescue vehicle upgrades ($15,000), recreation software ($14,000) and money for deer reduction ($12,500).
The council also allocated $5,788 in excess funds to the Early Learning Center.
The money comes from the revenue generated from proposed increased fees and vehicle taxes.
At the council’s meeting Monday, April 8, it voted to impose taxes on motor vehicles valued above $1,000. Currently, only motor vehicles valued above $6,000 are taxed. The new change would not go into effect until there is a public hearing. It would apply to cars, trucks and mopeds, but not to boats.
The council proposed to increase the cost of Golden shellfishing licenses, which are given to applicants age 65 and older. The license would cost $20 instead of $1 — the council also considered eliminating the Golden license altogether. The options will be addressed in a public hearing.
The council proposed to increase rental mooring fees. The cost would be $550 plus $5.50 per foot — currently the cost is $500 plus $5 per foot. Resident mooring fees would also increase. The cost would be $165 plus $2.75 per foot.
The council also voted to increase building permits fees, and to impose a rental fee for facility of Heinz Field. Heinz Field would cost $20 per hour for resident or non-profit use, and $30 per hour for-profit use. There are no fees currently.
As part of the approximate $12 million budget, the Medical Center is slated to receive a $37,000 funding increase over last year, totaling $123,800. The Center had originally requested $183,800 in town support to cover the Medical Center’s revenue shortfalls.
The Block Island School received its request of $4.5 million in town support — an approximate $100,000 increase from last year.
Library expenses may increase from last year by $42,624, totaling $468,776. The amount includes ongoing and one-time property maintenance. This amount also reflects a 3 percent increase in wages for the library director. The 3 percent wage increase is the standard this year for town employees.
The budget also sees a $53,659 increase in recreation costs, totaling $353,041. Recreation Director Robbie Closter had proposed an alternative budget to increase the department’s revenue and add expenses for a full-time position, but the council rejected this proposal.
In the proposed town budget, there is 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.
Technology expenses are proposed at $139,688, an 11 percent increase over last year.
Town Councilor Sean McGarry introduced a curveball later in the council meeting by asking the council to bond $2,348,416 for capital improvements proposed until 2017, sewer upgrades and town beach pavilion renovations.
This bond would reduce this year’s taxpayer expenses and eliminate the capital tax, but would be an expense of $171,434 for 20 years. It would also level-fund the town’s support to the Block Island School.
“I’m not going to let indecision further degrade our infrastructure,” said McGarry, referring to the capital improvement proposed in the bond. “All of the components of this are things that we all agreed on.”
However, other councilors disagreed. Councilor Norris Pike said that the council should look at McGarry’s proposal line-by-line. “There are items we all agree and disagree with,” he said. “We need the time for the discussion among ourselves to prioritize.”
McGarry’s motion failed with four nays, and McGarry the lone aye.
“My only concern is that you’re essentially eliminating the capital budget,” said Town Finance Director Amy Land. McGarry’s plan would take all capital improvement items proposed in this year’s budget and move them into the bond.
Council members and audience members also said that there may be some items that are not included in the capital improvement list out to 2017.
“I personally think bonding is good, but I think it’s a year-long process for a public hearing,” said island resident Elizabeth Connor.
“I think the concept has merit, but probably not for this year,” said First Warden Kim Gaffett.
The council discussed developing McGarry’s plan for next year’s fiscal process.
The online version of this article was amended from the one that appeared in print Saturday, April 13. Correctly reported, the library director will receive a 3 percent wage increase. It was incorrectly reported as a 10 percent wage increase.