Friday, April 18, 2008

Middletown Budget

From Newport This Week:

Middletown residents could face a 4.3 percent tax increase under a proposed $62 million budget submitted to Town Council members at their Monday meeting. Council members will begin their review of the plan, prepared by Interim Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown, later this month. If adopted, it would represent a 6 percent, or $3.5 million, increase over current fiscal year spending.

On average, property tax bills would increase to $11.49, from $11.01 per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home valued at $350,000, that would mean a tax bill increase next year of $168, to $4,021.

Rising energy prices could also play a role in the budget hike, with municipal spending increasing by $784,156. The bulk of that sum would come from the proposed purchase of new financial management software. Also contributing to the increase would be added costs for November's presidential and general election as well as contracted salary and benefits increases.

Beach passes and camping spaces would also see a fee increase. Under the proposed budget, residential beach stickers would rise $5, to $50, while non-resident stickers would increase $10, to $100. Camp spaces would also see a 20 percent increase.

On the commercial side, tax bills would also increase by 64 cents, to $15.29 per $1,000 of assessed value. The sewer maintenance rate would jump 10 cents, to $11.20 per $1,000 of assessed gallons, and connection-related charges would together increase $8.53 per connection.

Budget meetings will take place with the Council & various departments with April with public sessions in May.

After the last Council meeting, most fiscal matters, but not the into of the Budget, will no longer be placed on the consent calendar. This calendar is usually quite lengthy with various items (letters/notices rec'd, other towns' requests for support, etc.) Items are not usually discussed seperately and are voted on together. They are not usually of a controvertial nature, although some of the others towns' requests for lege support definitely may be. What the Council officially does is acknowledge receipt & offer their consent for support.

Public input was at the center of Antone C. Viveiros's complaint that fiscal matters not be placed on the consent calendar. "Financial matters are too important to be placed on the consent calendar," Mr. Viveiros said. "This is taxpayer money."
Council member Edward Silveira Jr. agreed. "This is the most important thing we do all year long," he said.
Mr. Rodrigues was sympathetic to Mr. Viveiros' concern, but said the decision to place the receipt of the budget on the consent calendar was an administrative decision based on several years of experience in which a special council meeting was called for the sole purpose of receiving the budget with little or no public turnout.
In the end, the council agreed that all significant financial matters be included on the council's regular meeting docket.

Thanks to reporter Tom Shevlin. The Council meets this Mon.

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