Letter: Over-budgeting and millions in surplus in Barrington

Posted 5/25/22

To the editor:

I would like to explain my vote on the recommended budgets for the schools and the town and what I learned while going through the budget process.

I voted with the majority on …

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Letter: Over-budgeting and millions in surplus in Barrington

Posted

To the editor:

I would like to explain my vote on the recommended budgets for the schools and the town and what I learned while going through the budget process.

I voted with the majority on the Committee on Appropriations to hold the town to a 5 percent increase over last year’s budget and to hold the schools to a 4.5 percent increase. These numbers are reasonable in light of the fact that last year, the schools had just over $1 million surplus and the town had a $1.5 million surplus. For 2020, the schools had a $2.4 million surplus. This year it appears that the schools should have a $2 million surplus. The audit for the town in 2020 showed an over-budgeted amount of $300,000 for police, dispatch and department of public works salary lines; in 2021, the audit showed an over-budgeted amount of $200,000 for police department, library, tax assessor and department of public works salary lines.

For the past 7 to 8 years, the library has inadvertently been misrepresenting its funding such that the state was giving the library approximately $70,000 more in state aid than it should have been. This happened because the applications for state aid were not properly filled out. The library had not been backing out the prior year’s state aid grant when reporting to the state on the funds appropriated by the town for the library. Going forward, this reporting has been corrected and the state will provide the library with $70,000 less in funding for the coming year; the town appropriation will make up the difference. While the library director told me she explained the error to her library board in October 2021, and while the town staff signed the revised state aid application in October 2021, there was no mention of the reporting errors and erroneous overpayments in the December 2021 “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the Town of Barrington” and there was no mention of this by the town council members present at the budget forecasting session.

Every year the schools pays over to the town’s General Operating Fund all of the tuition it collects from the parents of the preschool children in the Primrose Hill preschool program. This is approximately $30,000 each year. The town reports this tuition money as “miscellaneous” income and does not label it as “preschool tuition.” Because it goes into the town’s General Operating Fund, the money is used to pay for town expenses such as police services.

I called the RI Attorney General’s Office to learn more about the proposed police body-camera program. Barrington was not among the first 11 municipalities which applied for and received federal funds to begin the body-camera program. Barrington will wait to make an application to the state for state funding to reimburse Barrington for its purchases of equipment for the body-camera program. The application window for applying for state funds has not yet opened. Barrington must also adopt the statewide body-worn camera policy which the RI Attorney General’s Office developed in coordination with other law enforcement stakeholders.

It has been an honor to serve on the Committee on Appropriations and I look forward to helping prepare the COA recommended budgets again next year.

Sincerely,

Susannah P. Holloway

Barrington

Holloway is vice chairwoman of the Barrington Committee on Appropriations.

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