Smithfield presents budget for FTM

Smithfield presents budget for FTM

SMITHFIELD – Residents will be tasked with voting on a $72.3 million budget during the June 8 Financial Town Meeting after a 3-2 Town Council vote pushed through the Fiscal Year 2018 plan.

The budget includes a 3.52 percent tax levy increase, which could change if residents make changes at the annual meeting.

Several residents and council members tried to make changes of their own at the May 9 public hearing, but only one motion was approved by the Town Council.

The first motion of the night was brought by Town Council President Paul Santucci, who proposed an $85,000 cut to the fire department’s overtime.

“As I told the town manager since I came here five years ago, I work with whatever I’m given to work with, but quite frankly I don’t understand the cut,” said Chief Robert Seltzer.

Seltzer added that he attended two previous workshops and had not been consulted before the cut was proposed.

“I just feel this is not being handled in what I would call a professional manner,” Seltzer said.

He defended the overtime as a necessity to compensate for injuries, and ultimately won his case. The motion was defeated.

Santucci also proposed eliminating funding for payment two of three for the town’s Elgin Sweeper, totaling $74,995, and transferring that money into the town hall capital account for emergency use. That motion passed unanimously.

Councilwoman Suzy Alba once found herself defending funds for a Smithfield dog park after town resident John Serapiglia Jr. made a motion to remove the $12,500 allocated for the project.

“My understanding of public money is that it can only be used for three things: health, safety, and welfare,” said Serapiglia. “And nowhere does a dog park fall under any one of those categories.”

Alba argued that public money is also used for recreational purposes, noting that demand for the dog park is strong in the community.

“The $12,500 is a very insignificant amount,” she said.

The council ultimately voted down Serapiglia’s motion.

Alba then drafted a motion of her own, taking aim at the budget’s $400,000 allocation for legal fees by recommending a reduction to $300,000.

Alba has been critical of the town’s legal fees in the past. During a March Town Council meeting, she raised concerns about billing for court appearances and the preparation of recusal forms. She also suggested it may be inappropriate for Town Solicitor Edmund Alves to hold former Town Council Vice President Richard Poirier responsible for outstanding zoning and building violations, considering Poirier appointed Alves on several occasions as the solicitor.

That motion was only supported by Alba and Councilor Michael Lawton.

There was also a motion by Asset Management Commission member David Russas, who proposed that the Parks and Recreation budget be increased by $260,000 in capital funds for a full reconstruction of the basketball courts at Anna McCabe Elementary School.

“They’re in disrepair right now,” said Russas.

The courts, constructed more than 50 years ago, are used by hundreds of students.

Public Works Director Charles Walsh and School Committee Chairman Sean Clough also voiced their support for the investment.

The motion was voted down by the council because it has enough funds in capital reserve to jump start the project. Rather than increase the 2018 budget, the Town Council will address the issue at an upcoming meeting.

Greenville resident Ralph Robitaille presented a motion to increase stipends for council and school board members an additional $500 in pay.

Ethically, council members could not vote on their own pay increase.

Residents who had their motions rejected by the Town Council at the public hearing may present the same motion at the Financial Town Meeting.

Motions for an increase can only be considered if a minimum of 80 percent of the electors at the FTM give their consent to consider it, but cuts only need a second and a simple majority vote to pass.