Newport City Budget
The budgetary process for the City of Newport is nearing its end. After the budget was introduced early this year, a series of workshops were held where the City Council heard presentations on sections of the budget, were able to ask questions and discuss options for budget modification.
A major item of good news was that no rate increases will be needed for water and sewer use for fiscal year 2013. Rates for both were scheduled to increase significantly.
On May 29 proposed budget changes were published. These amounted to a net increase in the budget of $18,331. Major additions were bond interest for the Pell School, anticipated liability insurance increase of 15% and 3 new civilian fire department dispatchers (salary & benefits). Major savings were health insurance savings, other insurance savings by using actual to date costs to estimate expenditures and a decrease in fire dept rentals initially based on the water rate increase.
A significant area of disagreement arose between the School Committee and the Council. The School Committee asked for an increase of $639,515 (mainly due to decreases in federal and state funding), but the council said no and has budgeted the same amount as last year for the School Fund. It has been suggested for several years that savings could be achieved if the City and School Administration shared financial services. Recently the School Committee received a critical report from a Providence accounting firm that reviewed the School Departments finance operations. On June 12th, the School Committee passed a resolution asking the City Council to allow the city Finance Director to conduct an analysis of School Department business office operations and make recommendations on whether she should assume oversight of school finances.
The second reading of the budget ordinances was scheduled for the Council meeting on June 13th. The proposed revenue from both the property tax and the motor vehicle levy for fiscal year 2013 is to be not less than $62,500,000 and not more than $65,900,000. A real estate tax levy of $63,317,002 and a motor vehicle tax levy of $1,700,000 represent a tax increase of 2.5%, well below the cap of 4.0%.
At the June 13th Council meeting, it was voted to continue the second (and final) reading of the budget resolutions to the June 27th meeting. The Council also decided to hold a special budget workshop on Wednesday, June 20th to discuss final adjustments to the fiscal year 2013 budget, especially school funding. The workshop will be held in council chambers, beginning at 6:30 pm.
(article contributed by Fred Best)