Support ALL of South Kingstown

It has been more than a decade since the community has had a Special Election to determine the town budget. On July 14th, there are two budget changes to consider. One is a reduction of the property tax transfer to the schools and the other is a reduction to the municipal budget.

Initially, the schools presented a budget with a 2% increase in the tax transfer. Then COVID happened. Our lives changed, businesses closed, and people were suddenly out of work. Throughout the budget process, as the impact of the COVID pandemic unfolded, the community was repeatedly assured that changes would be made to the proposed budgets. 

But Nothing Changed.  

As a result of decreased transportation costs from remote learning, the schools announced savings of over $1.4 million. The school district had wanted to keep its savings and still have a 2% increase in funding. After residents expressed concerns and pushed back on the double dipping, a very convoluted and confusing compromise was proposed by the current Town Manager at the 11th hour, and adopted by this Town Council at their final budget meeting.  

The school savings would transfer to the town and the town would then in turn transfer the savings back into the increase for next year. 

Why adopt this back and forth with the money? 

It was finally revealed that this would raise the baseline budget for the schools and begin at a higher starting point at the next budget cycle. Why? How does that help alleviate the financial concerns of the Town’s residents and taxpayers? Who are our elected officials looking out for?  

It certainly seems as though they are not listening to or looking out for the community.  Even with a successful vote on July 14 to approve the $1.1M tax transfer reduction, the school department will still have this year’s COVID savings to support their budget, preventing the need for program cuts. This fact was repeatedly stated by the Town Manager at Monday June 8th’s Town Council meeting.

You may be also hearing that your taxes will not be going up. That is misleading at best.  The money shifting deal allows for this because the increase will be covered by the shifted savings. The fact is, this shifting only disguises a bigger tax increase in coming years.

The second petition which you will be voting on is a $300K reduction to the municipal budget, that was created before COVID, and was approved by a 3-2 vote, essentially unchanged. However, approving the second referendum is a symbolic message to those elected officials who clearly did not take into account the economic upheaval in our town. Last year, the town “found” over $300K to fund  EMS to properly serve our community. I am confident that once again, this minor reduction is possible, without any impact to services and programs that are important to our community.

On Monday, the town manager reiterated that if approved, “it won’t change the tax rate.” How can a reduction not impact our tax rate?  This leads to further confusion on how the town finances are managed. 

This year is different. By approving the two questions on July 14, we can reduce the overall budget, stop the double dipping, and still keep all the school and municipal programs that are proposed.

The Town Council should be looking out for the residents of this town. We rely on them to see through all the rhetoric and make the right decision. Isn’t that why they’re elected?  And we as a community have a responsibility to pay attention and provide input on the financial process that impacts our lives and pocketbooks.  

The good news is that we have a chance to make this right.

The vote was postponed until July 14th to allow time for residents to safely vote.  There is time to ask questions, gather information, and make an informed decision before voting at the Recreation Center, or by mail. (on July 14th). This is important, let’s get it right. 

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