N.S. officials recommend spending increase

N.S. officials recommend spending increase

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town Administrator Gary Ezovski recommends the town spend around $808,000 more in 2018 than in the current fiscal year, with a plan he says is focused on increasing the town’s future borrowing capacity by controlling costs.

Members of the Budget Committee, meanwhile, are pushing for a smaller increase of $667,114, which still sees more funding spent on line items for road repair and employee compensation.

Which philosophy the Town Council will choose to follow, or if board members will devise an entirely different approach, will become clear when they take up the document for review at their meeting on Thursday, June 29. The town will first hold a public hearing on the fiscal plan June 19.

“I believe this proposal is the most responsible program we can offer to meet the obligations we have to our customers, those of course being the citizens of North Smithfield,” Ezovski said in an introduction to his proposal.

The administrator’s budget would increase the town’s contribution for post-employment benefits from $100,000 to $150,000, a change he says is intended to help chip away at the outstanding obligation, which at the current rate won’t be met for 40 years.

The line item is one of many where budget board member took a different approach, rolling back spending.

The budget board’s plan would see spending of nearly $20,000 less on animal control, around $14,000 less on the inspection division, roughly $10,000 less on audits and computer services, $69,000 less on the police department and $69,000 less on employee benefits.

The plan increases spending, meanwhile, on public works by more than $200,000 and allocates roughly $150,000 more to the School Department, while still falling well shy of the district’s requested 4 percent increase. Budgeters’ proposed $25,386,994 school budget would see the district receiving a 2.5 percent increase, with an additional $375,000 set aside for capital purchases.

Ezovski noted that his budget also aims to control the town’s biggest employment costs.

“Given the limited economic expansion that we are experiencing as a country and certainly as a state, I believe North Smithfield must target overall employee compensation growth to a 2 percent year-over-year level. Increases at 3 and 3.5 percent are simply not affordable to the community,” he said.

In a summary of their plan meanwhile, Budget Committee members, led this year by former Councilor Kimberly Alves, note that all town employees would receive a 3 percent salary increase.

Despite the differing philosophies, final spending totals between the two plans vary by only around $140,000 in the $43 million budget packages. The tax levy would increase by 2.3 percent under Ezovski’s plan and 1.6 percent under budgeters’ recommendations according to budget worksheets.

Ezovski notes that a request by National Grid to reclassify some $22 million in assets has complicated this year’s budget process.The company has reportedly submitted paperwork asking that the foundation of their high voltage line upgrades from two years ago be taxed as commercial, rather than residential real estate. The change would shrink the rate of taxes from more than $40 per thousand to below $20 per thousand.

“The impact to the town is a reduction of over $450,000 that, if recovered by increasing the rate in one year, would increase our rates by about 1.7 percent without any change at all in spending,” the administrator said. “My office is in continuing discussion with Grid representatives to mitigate the impact of the change with hope to have an agreement that is satisfactory to our Town Council and Grid as soon as possible.”

Tax rates for the year will be set by the council following their June 29 deliberation and vote.