CHARLESTOWN — Voters are being asked to approve a budget at referendum on June 7 that would allow the community to increase education spending slightly and maintain all services while simultaneously reducing the tax burden for residents.

Members of the public will cast their votes on a proposed $30.24 million combined education, operating and capital-improvement budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that includes $16.73 million for government operations and capital improvements and $13.51 million for the town’s portion of the annual Chariho school budget.

Due to pandemic conditions and safety protocols, officials said the town had issued mail-in ballots via the postal service late last week and all residents will be able to cast their vote using a mail-in ballot. Residents may also vote in-person on June 7 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Charlestown Town Hall, located at 4540 S. County Trail.

“Like last year, the voting this year is going to be by mail ballot, which the town clerk and (Charlestown Board of Canvassers) have put into action,” Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz told members of the Charlestown Town Council earlier this month. “The mail ballots should be to most voters by May 21, and will need to be returned to Town Hall by 8 p.m. on June 7.”

Members of the council voted unanimously on May 10 to send the proposed budget to referendum. The council adopted the proposal to send to referendum less than a week after a town hearing that drew participation from just a handful of residents, most of whom expressed support for the overall proposal.

Under the proposed budget, the town would designate $12.17 million for department expenditures, a 5.62% increase over current spending, and $13.51 million would be used to fund the town’s portion of the annual Chariho school budget, a 1.41% increase over the 2020-21 fiscal year. The budget also carries a $3.92 million capital improvement and transfers account, an 8.8.% reduction over current spending, and designates $646,941 for debt service, a nearly 35% reduction.

As presented, the budget would represent an increase in overall spending of approximately $110,000 and, with an offset from revenue, would allow the town to reduce the mill rate.

As presented, the budget would require the town levy a tax burden of $8.18 per $1,000 in assessed property, which would reduce the tax burden from the current rate of $8.23. Stankiewicz said during the public hearing earlier this month that the goal in crafting this budget was to maintain quality services, keep a stable and low tax rate and look ahead to make sure the town is not left with an unexpected bill in the future that could negatively impact the tax rate.

“This budget reduces the tax rate while using the unassigned fund balance to fund a large capital project, which is Old Mill Road, and reduce our incurred future liabilities with the hope of stabilizing future taxation,” Stankiewicz said.

For more information, including a copy of the proposed 2021-22 budget, visit https://charlestownri.gov/.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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