Proposed town budget at $12mTax levy increases by 4 percent
The Town Council has submitted its preliminary fiscal year 2014 budget, which totals around $12 million and asks town taxpayers to contribute around $8.5 million — right at the maximum 4 percent tax levy increase allowed by state law.
The council had an initial review of the budget at its Wednesday, March 20, meeting.
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 by $42,624, totaling $468,776. The amount includes ongoing and one-time property maintenance. This amount also includes a 10 percent wage increase for the library director, who was paid on a probationary basis last year.
The town plans to increase fee revenues by $37,645, which includes proposed mooring rental and permit fee increases.
The budget also sees a $53,659 increase in recreation costs, totaling $353,041. Heinz Field maintenance expenditures are expected to double over the next year due to increased maintenance. The town plans to continue using organic fertilizer on the field, instead of a less expensive synthetic option.
The recreation department has also proposed $12,000 wage increases for department aides. This is to cover a time when the recreation “director may be out on leave,” said Town Finance Director Amy Land.
Land said that recreation department program expenses are designed to be covered by the program’s revenue.
Not included in the budget yet is the proposed Town Beach Pavilion renovation. The town is expected to bond this project and the Beach Pavilion is projected to bring $101,000 in revenues this year.
Also not in the budget is a proposed $3 million in sewer repairs — the town would also bond this project if approved.
The budget proposes a 3 percent increase in town employee and police wages, but Land said that the contract negotiations for both parties are not complete.
Town Councilor Norris Pike suggested adding in a budget line for a deer bounty, in order to reduce the deer herd on Block Island.
“We’re probably going to be cutting stuff out of this budget, Norris, because we’re already at our maximum [tax] cap,” said Second Warden Ken Lacoste.
The council also approved a request from the Housing Board, supporting the board’s request to bond $1 million in construction costs for its new affordable housing project. This would be in the Housing Board’s budget, not the town’s, and would be voted on by town taxpayers.