Tomorrow, I will voting YES at the all day budget referendum. I am in favor of this budget because it maintains the five year fiscal stability plan that was approved by the Department of Revenue. I was a firm supporter of this plan both as a resident and as an elected leader. I felt that the five year plan was necessary for us to avoid receivership and maintain our local control. Like everyone, I feel the pain of tax increases; whether that is the tax levy or the tax rate going up. I supported the budget for the past two years because I felt that it was the best thing for the town and would lead us in the right direction.
This year’s budget allows us to make 100% of our required pension fund contribution. It also funds the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) portion of the pension fund at 100%. In fact, approval of the last four budgets proposed by the current town council and management has more than tripled the contributions made in the previous ten years.
This year’s budget increases the schools’ budget. The school budget had been level funded over the previous two years. This will allow the schools to keep all current programming. It will allow the West Warwick School Department to continue to be a leader in blended learning with our one to one Chromebook initiative. It will also help the school make structural improvements and upgrades to buildings and facilities.
Approving this budget would also help to expand the library hours. It will also allow us to make significant IT upgrades across town systems to help implement programs like e-permitting and establishing online tax payment. It would also ensure upgrades to the civic center and ice rinks, including installation of solar panels. It also would allow the town to make recreation improvements and continue with the road improvements already under way.
Voting for this budget would also allow West Warwick to move forward with the wind turbine project that would help to significantly cut municipal energy costs. West Warwick would be the first community in RI to run all of its town buildings on renewable energy. This budget also allows the town to purchase our street lights and upgrade them to LED lights. This will both enhance safety as well as lead to more cost savings for the town on the energy side.
Right now, the town is tracking better than the five year plan had originally projected. This budget ensures that we move forward with eliminating projected deficits. Hopefully, with projects that are already approved and the possibility of more to come in the spring and summer, we could be in even better shape by the end of this budget. There are exciting things in the works that you may have noticed or heard about around town. Lippit Mill, the second oldest mill in America, will be preserved and turned into housing with recreational trails along the Pawtuxet. CVS will be building in the old St. James lot. Centerville Bank will be expanding and has helped make it possible for the Arctic Playhouse to move and expand into the old Mastro Building.
I understand that there are people that are upset that their taxes may go up. I’m with you. I don’t want my taxes to go up more than anyone else does. However, I understand that to make the five year plan a reality, we were probably going to have tax increases. That is what was needed to help our town get its financial house in order. That has allowed our town to move forward with a number of initiatives that will lead to long term savings and hopefully make us more attractive to businesses. With continued economic growth and the sound fiscal management that our current council and town manager have demonstrated over the past few years, I’m confident that our town is heading in the right direction. That is why I am voting YES on the budget tomorrow.