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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — South Kingstown Town Manager Rob Zarnetske last week authorized the town to hold a budget referendum on July 14, bypassing town charter rules that normally would have required it to be held by June 9.

The referendum will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 14 at the Community Recreation Center, 30 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield.

The July 14 date was recommended by the town’s Board of Canvassers, which recently verified the signatures on two budget referendum petitions.

The board offered that date, it said, in order to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage the use of emergency ballots.

Officials said the delay is also intended to allow the town to conduct an election in the safest possible manner while also ensuring that as many qualified voters as possible can vote.

Zarnetske was in the unusual position of being the decision-maker on whether the vote would be held June 9, July 14, or an alternative suggestion of June 30.

Zarnetske relied on state and local declarations of emergency put in place in March – and still active – that give the manager authority to act on matters involving public health and safety in order to make the decision. The council was split between June 30 and July 14 when it met May 26.

The state on Monday entered the so-called Phase 2 of reopening, which eased some restrictions on public gatherings and indoor dining, among others.

The town’s canvassing board on May 18 certified two ballot questions: to reduce the municipal budget by $300,000, and the education budget by $1.1 million.

The questions are the result of petitions submitted to the town by voters who want to see the budgets reduced further, based on the current economic climate.

The deadline to register to vote for this election is June 14, a Sunday. Residents can register to vote, or check their current voter registration on the Secretary of State’s website at sos.ri.gov.  

Voter registrations forms and emergency ballot applications are available in the outdoor boxes located at Town Hall and the Peace Dale Library. The emergency ballot application is also available for download on the town’s website.  

To vote by mail, voters must complete an emergency ballot application and mail or deliver the application to the Town Hall, 180 High St.

Ballots will then be mailed to voters who complete the emergency ballot application, unless the town receives the ballot from the voter in person. Voted emergency ballots must be returned by mail or in person to the Board of Canvassers at Town Hall no later than Monday, July 13 at 4 p.m.

Qualified electors may vote by emergency ballot in person at the Town Hall no later than 4 p.m. July 13. They can call (401) 789-9331, extension 1230 to make an appointment.

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