Scituate seeks options after FTM denied

Scituate seeks options after FTM denied

SCITUATE – The Rhode Island Department of Health has denied plans for a socially distant Financial Town Meeting on June 9, leaving the town in need of alternate solutions.

During the May 14 meeting, the Town Council granted Town Treasurer Ted Przybyla authority to issue tax bills using the 2019-2020 tax levy should the state legislature approve the action.

The unanimous approval gives Przybyla the authority to take “any and all appropriate action for financial provisions by the town of annual appropriation approved by voters at last year’s Financial Town Meeting.”

Przybyla said the town is operating using $2.3 million in tax anticipation loans and is unable to predict if the money will be enough without a date for budget approval.

He said he needs to find a solution to the tax-flow situation while he hopes the General Assembly will resolve the issue with FTMs.

“At some point, the town will run out of money, and I will not allow that to happen,” Przybyla said.

He added that it is his responsibility to ensure the town is in a good financial position and not wait six weeks until it is not.

Scituate resident and former Rep. Michael Marcello, a lawyer, is drafting legislation for the state to allow cities and towns to levy taxes based on the previous year’s budget. According to Marcello, there is no Rhode Island law allowing tax levies to be imposed using last year’s budget.

Przybyla said he intends to act within state law. The council’s resolution will allow him to move forward, he said.

According to Marcello, Scituate is the only town in the state attempting to carry forward a levy using last year’s budget. He said the state is aware that there needs to be a change in the law.

“It is the wide consensus. You do not have the authority to carry forth a levy into the next fiscal year,” he said.

He added that any tax bill issued at this time may allow taxpayers to not pay.

Councilor Tim McCormick said the action was to “preserve the option” to ensure the town keeps running.

Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu said while the motion allows Przybyla to take action, it will not allow him to work outside of the law.

McCormick said he wrote a detailed plan for the FTM earlier this month, including simulcast broadcasting of the meeting to be held in both the Scituate High School auditorium and gym, with coronavirus screening at the door.

The RIDOH decision aligned with residents’ concerns that the June date is too soon for the FTM based on ongoing social distancing guidelines.

“I would never jeopardize the health and safety of residents,” McCormick said.

The council said it plans on holding the meeting as soon as it is practical to do so to give voters the opportunity to vote on the 2020-2021 budget.