Little Compton's Budget Committee holds its first public workshop on the fiscal 2012-13 proposal this Thursday night, May 3 at 6 p.m. at . They will also be doing preliminary votes on the budget strokes, of which there are 59 this year.
In an interview last week, Chairman Scott Morrison said after some careful reductions and reportedly the third year in a row with a level-funded budget request, they propose a tax rate increase of 0.9 percent and a tax levy increase of 1.5 percent.
"The town's done a great job at keeping expenses down," he said,
The second public hearing is Tuesday, May 15 and the financial town meeting is Thursday, May 22 in the Wilbur-McMahon School gym.
Morrison said the Town Council requested an increase for highway department spending from $120,000 to $203,000, seeing as the town had stimulus monies available for paving sections of Peckham and Colebrook roads and it most likely won't be available again.
"We want to be on a 20-year paving cycle," he said, backing up the council's reason for the increase. The Budget Committee suggested breaking down that spending increase into smaller intervals, such as $40,000 one year and $43,000 the next, over upcoming years.
Morrison noted the tax assessor recommended the town put away $25,000 into its revaluation fund, due to cost estimates "going up considerably." That's a $15,000 increase, and Morrison said the committee recommended doing that at $5,000 annual increases.
School budget and surplus monies for building project
"This is a huge help," Morrison said about the school's budget. "They haven't had an increase. It's a big part of why we've been able to keep taxes low."
Morrison said there may be some confusion the schools listing a $700,000 item in their expenses for the next fiscal year, but it will be offset by a $700,000 revenue item. As part of the , Morrison said the department is planning to spend somewhere from $1 million to $1.2 million from their surplus for remaining renovation costs.
Unrestricted General Fund draw down concerns
The committee reportedly did a study three years ago to determine what level Little Compton's unrestricted general fund is funded. Morrison said Tiverton's is 3 percent, and there's nothing in Little Compton's charter or state law about it.
"We looked at what rating agencies would view as a strong level, and where neighboring communities were," he said, adding they concluded to keep a range of 10 to 12 percent as a balance. Three years ago, Little Compton was at 15 percent, and Morrison said they've been drawing that fund down gradually - almost $300,000 - over the last four years to provide tax relief.
Morrison added they are recommending taking out between $10,000 and $20,000 to keep the fund at 12 percent.
"We'll be going to market to the largest bond the town has ever seen," he said, referring to the school bond. "We’ve seen Portsmouth and Warren warned about keeping strong unstruscted reserves or it will affect their credit ratings."
Morrison said they saw small improvements on town administration revenues, such as a building permit fees, which amounted to $380,000 this current fiscal year. There will be some small state education aid, housing aid and reimbursements on various state taxes, he added.
Beach Commission revenues were up a bit, but they also raised their rates last year, Morrison said. Due to Hurricane Irene, Morrison said Little Compton lost a couple of weekends and Labor Day. The Federal Emergency Management Agency supplied the town with some funds The remaining restoration costs to $600, so Morrison said they recommended replenishing that account.