I think it is safe to say that everyone’s lives have been changed by COVID 19. We read about new ways of teaching, working, shopping. We hear about curbside pick up and reduced contact with the public. There are layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and more. The news is constantly sharing the number of new cases and sadly the numbers of deaths. We are in place we have never been before.
Here in South Kingstown, it is no different. Town life has changed dramatically. Restaurants are closed. Schools are closed. Storefronts are shuttered and Main Street is eerily quiet.
However, what is strange to me is the approach our local government is taking.
At the budget hearing in March,as the shutdowns began and stay-at-home orders came, the town council discussed the proposed budget for next year. The town council considered the preliminary budget. At the town manager’s Bob Zarnetske’s recommendation, the town council passed the preliminary budget with assurances by Bob Zarnetske that changes could be made. It was just too early to make adjustments and there was not enough information.
Fast forward six weeks, and the economic outlook from COVID 19 has not changed for the better. The adoption of the budget is before us. At last week’s budget meetings, we learned the schools have saved over $1.4 million and even more could be realized by June 30. And yet no changes were made.
Instead, the money saved will go into the School Committee reserves, not used as part their budget for next year.
On the municipal side, no changes were made. There are new personnel positions, raises for department heads, and increased spending. Not one spending reduction was discussed. Not even buying one less paper clip. We have been told repeatedly that changes could be made and none have been made to this budget.
Through the use of the municipal catastrophic fund, your taxes would remain the same for this year. This defers this year’s increase. Ask yourself where will the money come from next year?
Where is the compassion for those in our community who are out of work? Things remain very uncertain.
Has your life changed in the last six weeks? Are you doing things differently? Spending differently? None these decisions makes sense to me.
If you feel the same, please contact the town council and ask them to show some compassion for the people whose lives have been up-ended. firstname.lastname@example.org