No tax increase in Smithfield

No tax increase in Smithfield

SMITHFIELD – Officials say they’re proud to present a 2020-2021 budget with no tax increase during one of the most challenging financial years in recent memory.

It wouldn’t have happened, said Council President Suzy Alba, if employees with various town bargaining units hadn’t come to the table to give money back to taxpayers.

Alba has been insistent that residents who are already struggling with the impacts of the pandemic should not have the added burden of a tax increase.

The $83.6 million budget plan calls for a 2.2 percent increase in overall spending but no tax increase and no increase in funding to local schools.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said the town is grateful to all directors and managers who have continued to work hard through the budget process with a focus on minimizing the impact on taxpayers while maintaining quality services.

“A major component that helped in creating the fiscal year 2021 budget was the willingness of our bargaining units and townwide staff for accepting concessions and pay freezes for the upcoming year,” he said, agreeing with Alba. “This budget is a true reflection on the community as a whole coming together to help everyone through a difficult time.”

In addition to no tax rate increase, the funding proposal phases in an increased tax exemption for veterans from $8,000 to $10,000.

With legislative approval from the state, the town is switching up its budget approval process this year, said Rossi, planning a virtual public budget hearing and council adoption of the plan for Tuesday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

All information on how to connect to that meeting online will be on the town website. Also an option is to call 877-568-4106 or 646-749-3129 and enter access code 342-830-965.

After hearing feedback from residents, councilors will make their amendments and the budget will go into effect.

From an expenditure standpoint, the increase in municipal funding of $967,613 is due primarily to changes in reporting for enterprise fund expenditures and increased pension contributions and benefit costs. The balance of the increase is associated with the increase in debt service payments for the elementary school reconfiguration project and capital improvements, including the replacement of the Esmond Mill Bridge and the townwide streetlight replacement program.

Revenues projections for the 2021 budget were very difficult due to the impact of the pandemic, said Rossi, but by using a combination of the governor’s budget and various revenue models, officials were able to develop a conservative plan without adding any additional burden to taxpayers.

“A community needs to seek and develop innovative ideas for strategic planning and business forecasting,” he said. “New ideas for consideration and possible adoption need to be at the forefront of a viable municipal and school system.”

One example of this is the implementation of the streetlight replacement program, reducing costs through conversion to LED lights.

The savings from various local employee unions will be felt into the future, say officials.

Town workers will continue to try to stretch infrastructure dollars, the council learned last week, doing more jobs to prolong the life of local roads instead of doing full-depth reconstruction.