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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN - Members of the North Kingstown Town Council, along with the town clerk and other town staff, spent over five hours meeting with town department heads to go through all the individual budgets for fiscal year 2012/2013 Monday afternoon and, in a unanimous vote, approved the town managerâs preliminary budget of $98,995,928.
In the end, the group agreed on a budget that puts the general fund at $26,244,580, the debt services fund at $5,334,342, the library fund at $1,465,091, the municipal court fund at $258,354, the school fund at $58,737,012, the water fund at $3,212,163, the Quonset Davisville Recreation fund at $1,744,386 and the school capital reserve fund at zero.
Below is a department by department breakdown for the upcoming fiscal year.
The North Kingstown Free Library provides the public with popular materials, such as: books, magazines, movies, audio books, playaways, downloadable audio books, e-books and recorded music. The library still remains the sixth busiest in the state, despite having eight less staff members than it did a decade ago.
In fiscal year 2011, 187,828 people came through the doors and the library is on target to match that in the upcoming fiscal year. Also during fiscal year 2011, 363,989 items were circulated through the facility.
In a time of fast growing technology, library staff is always keeping up to date on the latest trends. Patrons downloaded 2,488 audio books and 1,455 e-books in 2011. So far this year, patrons have downloaded 1,190 audio books and 2,266 e-books.
Close to 7,000 children attended the libraryâs 260 programs offered last year, with another 4,026 attending the 134 adult programs.
âEven with all this success, over the past few years weâve had to make some changes in trying to meet the financial needs of the town and still provide the same library services,â said library director Cyndi Desrochers.
The library is being used more than ever, explained Desrochers, because many patrons either donât have computers or the financial means to buy new books or e-readers.
The library is prevented by state mandate from cutting their service hours to below 60 hours per weekâcurrently, it operates at 62âand if it dips below that threshold, it risks losing $200,000 in state grant-in-aid.
The adopted budget for last fiscal year was $1,420,732 and the recommended one for this year would be by 3.12 percent, or $44,359, higher.
âWeâre asking for a small tax increase so we can maintain our 62 hours,â Desrochers explained.
The Public Works department is responsible for maintaining and improving town infrastructures, including town roads, buildings, recreational facilities and other public assets. The department is made up of five divisions: administration, highway, engineering, solid waste/recycling/transfer station and facilities and grounds.
Director of Public Works Phil Bergeron has requested to maintain the same level of services with only a $38,352 or 0.92 percent increase over the current budget of $4,160,662.
Senior and Human Services
The Beechwood center is as busy as ever, with activity up 20 percent. Not only is Marie Marcotte the director of senior and human services, but sheâs also the townâs welfare director, meaning she is the liaison between the town and state administration in matters relating to food stamps, social services, assistance payments, medical assistance and community support systems.
Embury has recommended reducing the human services comportment of the budget by $40,620 for a final proposed budget of $112,501.
A total of 1,985 residents participated in programs offered at the senior center. The transportation program provides rides to and from the senior center, in-town medical appointments, shopping, lab visits, errands, hairdressing/barber appointments, banking, pharmacies and more. That service has increased 16 percent between 2010 and 2011.
The total proposed budget for the senior citizens component of this budget is $446,688, with no reductions made by Embury.
Planning and Development
The planning department has been extremely busy the last year with the work theyâve done at the Wickford Junction Train Station, village studies, ordinance development and more. The department is also responsible for monitoring the number of affordable housing units in town and, as of May 2011, reported there were 847 units (8.08 percent) of affordable housing in town.
Every city and town in the state needs to have a minimum of 10 percent. A total of 292 affordable units are in the works and 46 units under construction.
The adopted current budget was $368,779 and the recommended budget for fiscal year 2012/2013 is $391,506, an increase of $22,727 or 6.16 percent.
Among some of the department goals for the upcoming year are to re-write the townâs comprehensive plan and include information on affordable housing, Wickford, Harbor Management Plan, Hazard Mitigation Plan and Davisville Plans and to continue to preserve open space.
Quonset Davisville Recreation
This department is required to maintain and improve quality leisure activities and services at the Municipal Golf Course and Allen Harbor Marina. They continue to assist the Arts Council in their goal to provide diverse and quality programs for the residents.
The golf course hosts over 43,000 rounds of golf a year and the upkeep and maintenance is the top priority. The town owns and operates the marina that includes 84 moorings and over 100 slips.
Currently, the golf course receives $1,175,986, the marina $282,514 and the recreation department $334,049. The recommended budget calls for slight decreases for all three and, if approved, would cut golf course funding by $29,566 (or 2.51 percent), the marina by $3,618 (1.28 percent) and the recreation department by $14,979.
The town council didnât discuss the school fund Monday and will instead schedule a separate work session to evaluate it with Superintendent Dr. Philip Auger.
The council has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. on April 9 for matters related to the town budget. The school budget will be discussed on the same date at 7:30 p.m. After hearing from residents, the council will then have until May 2, which is when the budget needs final approval, to continue to have work sessions to finalize each departmentâs request.
The town managerâs full preliminary budget can be viewed on the town website, www.northkingstown.org.