NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The town of Narragansett’s $63 million 2021-22 budget is on its way to a first reading, after a relatively low-key public hearing process and some changes by the Town Council over several budget workshops.
The council had requested additional departmental cuts during those workshops.
Finance Director Christine Spagnoli said the cuts didn’t amount to much, since the town made deep cuts in the current budget that resulted in only a 0.3 percent spending increase.
“We had already done some deep dives into everybody’s budgets,” she said. The town had about $870,000 in discretionary spending, she said. “It was very difficult to make additional cuts to this budget.”
Among the new budget’s highlights are a $401,593 increase in capital projects, and a $2.12 million hike in operational spending. The tax levy is 1.98% when motor vehicles are excluded, and 1.82% when they are factored in. The town also reduced its medical and dental premiums from 10% and 5% increases to 1% and a 5.8% cut, respectively.
Narragansett also will use $1.03 million from its reserve fund toward the operating budget.
The council made changes to Town Manager James Tierney’s proposed budget, including more money from the unassigned fund balance – about an additional $855,000.
“It is common practice for the town to do that, to make up that gap in operational funding,” Council President Jesse Pugh said. “I just don’t want it to come off as if we’re doing something out of the ordinary here. This is something that’s done every year.”
The council also increased money for fire building renovations, parks and recreation temporary worker pay, engineering department vehicles and software and fire department personnel – a recruit to replace an expected retirement.
All told, the increases amount to $1.19 million.
The fire department would reduce its budget request by $82,690, being able to find savings on items such as uniform cleaning, office equipment and heating fuel.
“They actually reduced a little over 1%,” Spagnoli said. The town solicitor budget line was reduced by $15,000 as well, she said. Parks and Recreation made cuts of $8,000 to field trips and $1,500 from its tennis program.
The fire department made a request for $12,000 for additional emergency management part-time wages, and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic of Rhode Island has asked for $5,600 in a special appropriation.
The proposed residential property tax rate stands at $8.86 per thousand, and the commercial rate is $11.96. The current rates are $10.48 and $14.15 per thousand, respectively.
The council now will plan to adopt the first reading of the budget ordinance on May 17, with a second, final adoption on June 7.
Spagnoli said the town is still waiting for federal guidance on how it will be able to spend more than $1.52 million in money the town would receive as Covid-19 relief.
Resident Stanley Wojciechowski said the town should move away from funding its reserves at a 16% maximum.
“Maybe we could use 1% of (fund balance) for road work. I felt roads were an issue,” he said. “I don’t want to see road bonds where we not only have to fix the roads, but pay interest on that money.”
Left out of consideration was an additional $87,000 in funding for the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library. The council restored the library’s budget to $841,000 earlier after the previous council made a roughly $400,000 cut.