WEST WARWICK — The West Warwick Town Council on Monday approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $101.75 million to be presented to voters next month during a virtual financial town meeting.
The budget originally proposed by the town manager would have resulted in an approximately 3.9 percent increase in the residential tax rate. But after the pandemic hit, local officials were determined to get that rate increase to below 2 percent.
If approved by voters during next month's all-day referendum, the budget adopted this week will cause a tax rate increase of 1.92 percent, or 43 cents per $1,000, Finance Director Kristen Benoit said. A house worth $250,000, for example, will see a rate increase of around $107 annually.
The overall increase in next year’s budget is nearly $1.1 million, of which $765,784 will go to the schools — the first increase the school district has received from the town in several years.
The town council voted 4-1 to approve the budget, with the councilor Jason Licciardi, who said he’d like to see the town receiving revenue from the Civic Center, opposing.
“I believe that we have done our job,” John D’Amico, council vice president, said as he gave his vote. “We have tried to keep the lowest rate we possibly can, we’ve created a budget that makes sense, and I think it’s now up to the people to decide and to vote.”
Town Council President David Gosselin agreed, applauding Town Manager Ernest Zmyslinski, Benoit, department directors and his fellow councilors for their efforts to cut the budget increase to half of what was
“We’ve had some tough decisions to make,” Gosselin said.
And it wasn’t only on the municipal side where tough decisions were required — the school district, Gosselin added, has had its work cut out for it, as well.
Facing uncertainty regarding state aid thanks to the pandemic, West Warwick’s school district recently amended its budget to reflect a $1.9 million cut to address the possibility of level state funding.
“I also thank the school department and the school committee for the hard work they’ve done with their budget,” Gosselin continued. “They’ve had to make some very tough decisions this year with their budget, also.”
Councilors Maribeth Williamson and Jason Messier both echoed that.
“I believe that this is a very good, strong, fiscally sound and prudent budget,” Williamson added.
In other business, councilors voted Monday unanimously to appoint Norman Landroche as moderator of the financial town meeting. The meeting will take place over the Zoom video conferencing service at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14. The all-day budget referendum will be held the following Thursday at the Civic Center.