The Block Island Times
http://block-island.villagesoup.com/p/1074648

Town budget 'on target' so far

By Stephanie Turaj | Nov 01, 2013

The town budget for the first three months of fiscal year 2013/2014 has been “right on target,” according to Town Finance Director Amy Land.

Land presented an update to the Town Council at its Monday, Oct. 28, work session. The town’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

The 2014 town budget totals about $12.1 million. To date, the town has spent about $2.5 million (20 percent of budget) and earned about $4.8 in income (40.25 percent of budget). Land noted that having more income than expenses this time of year is fairly normal — the town earns much of its income during the summer season.

“The summer season was solid,” said Land, and she added, “There haven’t been any major surprises.”

Land went through the 24-page budget report with the Town Council, explaining that most expenses and revenue have been as expected. However, there were a few exceptions, and one line item has been overspent.

Three months into the current fiscal year, the town has spent more money in legal fees than it had budgeted. As of Sept. 30, the town spent $26,439 in legal fees, but budgeted $20,000 for the fiscal year.

“Legal is over-expended,” said Land. “It’s early in the year to not have anything left.”

Land said that the majority of the legal expenses have come from a lawsuit that the town is involved in, “Town of New Shoreham v. Filippi et al,” which is a dispute over an area of land in Old Harbor, according to Land.

Land also said that expenses for consultants are below the projected numbers. The town has budgeted $130,000, and has spent $26,469 (22 percent of budget).

As far as income, the town earned about $3.8 million in tax revenue, which is 44 percent of the budgeted $8.1 million. Land said that last year, the town had also earned 44 percent of budgeted tax revenue.

However, Land noted that revenue earned from the Harbors Department, which is earned through rental moorings and shellfishing licenses, was slightly down from last year.

“It just wasn’t that busy this year. We were 500 shellfish licenses back from last year,” said Harbors Clerk Beth Rousseau.

Land also provided the councilors a series of updates on other matters.

She said a new part-time clerk has been hired for the finance department, who will be focusing on the water and sewer department billing. “We have been very far behind in the finance office,” said Land. “Particularly in water and sewer.”

Land said there will be new criteria for how rating agencies develop town’s credit ratings for bonds. Block Island is currently rated “AA,” which is the third highest rating it can receive.

Also, Land reported that the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has implemented new requirements on accounting and financial reporting for the town. These changes will require “net pension liability” to be posted on the town’s government financial statements in 2015, said Land.

Land provided the Town Council with information from Rhode Island databases that could be used to compare budgets and financial information (such as wages) across the state. The council spent some time discussing how and if this information could be used by the council.

She also said that information from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a federal agency that provides guidance to public officials on how to make proper statements about financial information in a public forum. “It’s important when making statements about the budget to the general public, that these statements be accurate,” said Land.

Town Council Chris Warfel made several requests of Land, including a history of payments made to Town employees from 2011 through 2013, and a history of payments made to vendors. Land provided the information about vendor payments to Warfel and the council and said she would look into what information about town employees she can provide.

Land also noted that the town’s audit process is currently underway, and this year the town is using a new auditor.

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