Budget Committee proposes $39 million spending plan in North Smithfield

Budget Committee proposes $39 million spending plan in North Smithfield

NORTH SMITHFIELD - The Budget Committee has submitted a recommended spending plan to the Town Council that calls for roughly $1.3 million in new spending and includes an increase of $370,000 in local funding for the School Department.

The $39,161,265 proposed budget is around $64,000 less than the spending plan recommended by the town administrator, mostly due to the budget board's decision not to support newly proposed positions in the municipal budget.

The Town Council will have the ultimate say next Monday after reviewing both documents at a public hearing June 12.

North Smithfield is slated to receive $243,541 more in state aid in 2015 for schools, and commercial growth is expected to cover much of the new spending, like last year, when many residents saw a small decrease in their tax bill.

"Tax revenue from new developments will once again negate the need for a significant (if any) increase in the property tax rate this year," a report by the Budget Board explains.

The greatest discrepancy between Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton's proposal, and the budget proposed by the committee is in the category of spending for the Tax Assessor's Department. The administrator recommends hiring an assistant tax assessor at a cost of $35,000, a change the committee did not support.

The administrator's budget would also see Hamilton's salary increase in the upcoming fiscal year by $8,555 for a total of $79,844. The budget committee did recommend a pay increase for the administrator, but on a smaller scale totaling $3,711.

A request to hire an additional part-time custodian for the Department of Public Works at a cost of $7,498 also failed to gain budgeters' support.

The proposal does include a new line item for legal settlements with funding of $95,000.

The budget for the Police Department is up by around $189,000. Increases for law enforcement recommended by both Hamilton and the board include around $40,000 more for salaries, $29,000 plus in overtime pay, roughly $18,000 in holiday pay, and $21,000 in compensation pay. Additional funding of around $13,000 would be set aside for firearm training.

Still, the spending that gained support amounts to $17,360 less than the Police Department requested.

Another $200,000 would be set aside for road paving, to supplement the $2.5 million in work that could take place next year if voters approve a bond for the project.

"Even if the bond issue passes, the total cost of road repaving is around $6 million," said Budget Board Chairman Michael Clifford, referencing an engineering study provided to the town in April by Joe Casali Engineering.

The plan, which was submitted to the council on Monday, would see the combined municipal department budgets increase by a total of $346,129.

Both Hamilton's and the budgeters' plans call for $326,082 in capital improvements, more than $78,000 of which would go to the Police Department for the purchase of radios and two Ford Interceptors.

The funding plan marks a change from past years, when bonds have been used to finance capital projects.

"In lieu of financing these projects by increasing debt carried by the town, the Budget Committee has earmarked funds within the operating budget to pay for capital purchases and projects this year," the report explains.

The remaining $247,675 in capital improvements would be directed toward schools, with money set aside above and beyond the department's regular funding. The added dollars would finance technology improvements, plow and duct cleaning at North Smithfield High School, a pick up truck, and 22 new radios.

The School Department's regular budget would see a total increase of $584,100 once new state aid totaling $207,708 is added to the budgeters proposed local appropriation of $370,000.

Still, the figure is $314,761 less than the department requested.

The board included in the document several suggested accounts in which they feel the district could look for cuts. They include the line items for maintenance of copiers, transportation, and conferences and workshops. Clifford points out that although the department had spent only $5,716 of the money set aside for workshops by April, the district has asked for more than $53,000 this year.

The committee also recommended that the department negotiate changes to the North Smithfield Teacher's Association contract "to enable BEP compliance at a reduced cost."

"A major projected expense in aspiring to achieve full compliance with the BEP appears to be a significant expenditure in hiring additional staff to enable the district to provide academic supports, advanced academic opportunities and a greater offering of elective courses," it states, citing a teacher ratio of 1:12 and recommending the district negotiate more flexible scheduling.

Another recommendation involves the outsourcing of several School Department functions, including facility maintenance and technology.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on the proposals tonight, May 12, at a hearing at Kendall Dean auditorium starting at 7 p.m.