Charlestown’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 should be reduced and the Town's Unassigned Surplus (our Emergency Reserve) should be protected until the taxpayers decide what we want to do with it.
The world is experiencing a global pandemic. Charlestown’s businesses are struggling to survive. Our friends and neighbors are out of work.
The budget originally proposed by the Budget Commission called for an 8.8% increase in town spending. At the Town Council meeting of April 13, the Council cut $404,000 from the proposed budget. This only reduced the proposed increase of 8.8% to 7.4%. The budget can be further reduced.
The Budget Public Hearing will be held on Monday, May 4, at 7 pm. This is the last chance for the public to comment on specific items in the budget.
Here are a few suggestions for additional ways to reduce town spending in these difficult times:
This budget calls for prepayment of capital leases in the amount of $203,797. Leases are a way to spread out payments over time. Paying them in advance now would use money that could be saved for possible emergency spending.
Money is being added to the legal reserve in the amount of $124,651. There is currently $381,088 in this account and more is not needed now.
Excessive money is being added to the Pond and Beach Preservation Fund. There is currently $339,894 in this account. $250,000 was requested, to add to the account, but the current budget would, instead, add $325,000. This can be reduced by $75,000, or more, because of the healthy account balance.
Additionally, the budget, as originally proposed, appropriated $3.4 million from the Unassigned Fund Balance (emergency reserve). Last year, voters set aside $74,000 to survey taxpayers and residents to determine what we want to do with this money. This budget decides for us where the money will be spent, before we are even asked.
Again, the Budget Public Hearing is scheduled for May 4, 2020 at 7:00 pm. It is extremely important that your voice be heard!
Due to the current social distancing requirements, this is scheduled to be a virtual meeting. Residents can call in and express their opinions on the budget during that time, or emails can be sent to the Town Clerk at ARWeinreich@charlestownri.org and will be entered into the record.
Because of the difficulty of contributing during a virtual meeting, I recommend that people send written comments by email or letter delivered to the Town Clerk. If you include "I request that my comments be read at the meeting and be entered into the record" then everyone watching the meeting will hear them.
Due to the effects of the pandemic, our economic future is unknown. This budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21 should be reduced and the Town’s unassigned surplus should be protected and preserved until the taxpayers decide what we may need, or want, to do with it.
Deborah Carney - Vice-President, Charlestown Town Council
A version of this article was published as a letter to the editor in The Westerly Sun on April 30, 2020.