NORTH KINGSTOWN – On Monday, the North Kingstown Town Manager introduced to the town council the preliminary budget for FY2021, totaling nearly $109 million. The budget marks a 4.6 percent increase compared to last year. Various departments will meet with the council in the coming weeks to continue discussions on the budget, however, given the state of emergency that was declared over COVID-19, the dates of the meetings are subject to change.
After meeting with department heads, the council will consider and ultimately vote on the budget for approval.
While council members did not discuss the preliminary budget during their meeting on Monday, town manager Ralph Mollis submitted the document to the council.
“This budget continues to build on our success over these past few years,” Mollis wrote to the council. “The fiscal year 2021 Budget continues our conservative approach to budgeting, the establishment of a strong and stable fund balance, strong budgetary flexibility and controlling debt.”
As currently detailed in the preliminary budget, the tax rate is projected to increase by 1.87 percent.
“While we are updating assessment figures daily, we are projecting a tax rate of $17.41 necessary to fund the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget,” Mollis said. “This is a 1.87 percent increase over last year’s rate of $17.09.”
Revenue sources for the budget would stem primarily from tax revenue (roughly $83 million), along with other sources such as education aid ($12 million), departmental revenue ($5 million), QDC Pilots ($4 million), prior year taxes and interest ($2 million), school housing aid ($1 million) and more.
The majority of the funding would be allocated for the school department ($67 million), though it would also go towards public safety ($20 million), municipal operations ($8 million), public works ($6 million), debt service ($5 million), library costs ($2 million), utilities ($1 million) and Quonset MSA ($600,000). Funding also comes from the town’s various enterprise sources, such as the water department, sewer fund, transfer station, the golf course and Allen Harbor.
Some highlights of the proposed preliminary budget include $400,000 for capital improvements to the school department, $100,000 for the Post Road Facade Improvement Program and $100,000 in grant matches.
The unassigned fund balance also reached $13.2 million at the end of FY2019, which Mollis said the town expects to continue building on as FY2020 ends.
Mollis added that the budget reflects a zero-based process, which requires that all expenses be justified and approved for each new period.
“I want to recognize the outstanding work of our department heads, finance department and all employees,” he wrote to the council. “The fiscal year 2021 budget reflects a zero-based budgeting process as required by the town council and is the result of department heads assessing their needs and compiling the version you have before you.”
While Mollis said that this year’s budgeting process was a success, he also pointed to difficulties, such as Gov. Gina Raimondo’s state budget narrowing the car relief tax and extending the phase-out period for another five years.
“It is crucial that we have a fast resolution to this issue so we can provide this relief to our taxpayers without delay,” Mollis said.
While the dates for the upcoming budget meetings are still considered tentative, Mollis said he was looking forward to proceeding from a preliminary budget to a final budget.
“I look forward to working with you as we continue to build on the progress we’ve made over these past few years, improve the services our residents have come to expect and deserve and proceed from a preliminary budget to a final budget,” Mollis said. “I will continue to expand on this message with additional information and overview as we proceed through the Budget calendar.”
The dates for the meetings with department heads were originally scheduled for tomorrow, March 20, and Monday, March 23, however, due to COVID-19, they have been tentatively rescheduled for next Friday, March 27 and Monday, March 30. On Tuesday, Mollis said the town was currently preparing a budget schedule in case next week’s tentative meetings also need to be changed.