Barrington budget hearing is tonight; library cut under the scope

Library board chairman responds to proposed $74,000 cut

By Josh Bickford
Posted 7/1/20

The annual budget hearing — the precursor for the financial town meeting — will be held tonight, Wednesday, July 1 at 7 p.m., online.

The Barrington Committee on Appropriations has …

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Barrington budget hearing is tonight; library cut under the scope

Library board chairman responds to proposed $74,000 cut

Posted

The annual budget hearing — the precursor for the financial town meeting — will be held tonight, Wednesday, July 1 at 7 p.m., online.

The Barrington Committee on Appropriations has completed its review of the proposed budgets and will share information about those budgets with taxpayers during the hearing.

"This is an important opportunity for voters to learn about the proposed budget that they will be voting on at the FTM later in July," stated a press release from the COA.

The COA has recommended a change to the proposed municipal budget. Officials voted against adding $145,000 for two additional workers at the Barrington Department of Public Works. The COA also discussed eliminating $19,000 for a part-time position at the Senior Center, but in the end voted to keep that money in the proposed budget.

Members of the town's Library Board of Trustees are reacting to a $74,000 cut to the library budget. The budget cut was made prior to the COA's review.

In a recent letter to the editor, Board Chairman Vincent Wicker wrote: "Members of the committee and town council may not have been aware that the line items within the municipal cuts presented to them included disproportionate cuts to the library at a time when this department needs those funds the most. Even more frustrating is that this could take place in the same town in which its citizens committed nearly $2.4 million to make the library more accessible to its children, citizens, and the community…"

On Wednesday morning, July 1, Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha offered some explanation for the budget cut. He said the reduction was due to the fact that there was a staffing reduction at the library during the recent coronavirus pandemic when the facility was closed. He said reduced staffing has continued while the library is phasing back into normal operations.

"The most important objective is to make sure that the cuts do not imperil state aid," he wrote. "We are watching the spending carefully to be sure eligibility remains. Worst case scenario is we may have to restore a portion of the cut at the FTM to meet the Maintenance of Effort requirements."

What to expect

The hearing will afford taxpayers an opportunity to ask questions or comment upon the budgets. Town officials have long recommended that people attend (or in this case, log in to) the budget hearing as it offers a clear picture of the town's financial situation heading into the upcoming fiscal year.

Members of the committee on appropriations are also recommending that taxpayers visit the town's website prior to the hearing and download copies of the budget and the PowerPoint presentation that will be shared during the hearing.

Questions and comments can be submitted prior to the meeting via email at coa@barrington.ri.gov.

Login information for the meeting is included on the meeting agenda which is available at barrington.ri.gov.

Budget increases

At last check, here is what the proposed budgets look like:

• Proposed school budget: $54,460,526 (an increase of $2,003,178)

• Proposed municipal budget: $17,632,886 (an increase of $529,010)

• Proposed school capital budget: $388,595 (an increase of $3,595)

• Proposed municipal capital budget: $1,349,200 (an increase of $404,200)

• Proposed tax levy increase: $1,313,073 (2 percent)

• Proposed tax rate increase: $20.10 (per $1,000 of assessed value) to $20.80 (3.5 percent)

Financial town meeting plan

The town's website features information about the upcoming financial town meeting, which is planned for Saturday, July 18 at Victory Field. The following precautions will be implemented for the outdoor FTM:

• Required physical distancing of 10 feet for non-household members

• Residents are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, sunscreen and water

• The bleachers will be open with limited capacity

• Two tents be reserved for seniors

• A robust speaker system will be used to provide sound throughout the BHS campus

• Discussion will be broadcast over a radio frequency to allow residents to remain in their cars during the meeting

• Meeting will be simulcast for viewing on smart devices

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.