NARRAGANSETT, RI — An increase in public spending on capital projects was one of the talking points during Monday’s City Council opening hearing on Narragansett’s proposed budget for 2022-23.
Among the capital projects on the drawing board are a new $1 million HVAC system for City Hall – including air conditioning for council chambers – and on the school side, a renovation of $1.5 million from the high school auditorium.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” Council Chairman Jesse Pugh said. “That’s the proposed budget, and it’s up to the board to decide where some of the funding for these projects would come from.”
The City is also looking for new full-time hires in the Clerk’s Office, Public Works and a part-time position in Information Technology.
The city’s tax rate would increase by 3.71% under the proposed $67.1 million spending plan for the next fiscal year. Municipal spending would increase by approximately 5.9%.
The proposed residential tax rate is 9.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from 8.86. The commercial rate is 12.41 against 11.96.
The increase in the tax rate is due to the maximum increase of 4% in the tax levy, said chief financial officer Christine Spagnoli. The cap is set by state law.
“At 4%, the tax levy brings in just over $2.1 million,” she said.
The city plans to use $1.4 million from its reserve funds — a substantial amount, Spagnoli said.
She said the city is grappling with a 20% increase this year in the assessed value of motor vehicles. However, state law says the city cannot charge residents more than what they were charged the previous year, she said.
“We are looking to reduce or use an additional $400,000 due to this disclaimer,” she said.
Narragansett, like other communities, is also beginning to allocate money for projects as part of the massive federal stimulus bill passed last year.
The city received $4.5 million in US Federal Rescue Plan Act funds. He’s received half of that money so far, with the other half due around July, Spagnoli said.
Resident Stanley Wojciechowski asked the city to return any excess to ratepayers.
“Sometimes I feel like government officials raise taxes because they can,” he said. “If we have money lying around here, we should take advantage of it so as not to increase. Give this surplus to the taxpayer.
Council working sessions on the budget will take place on April 6, 7 and 11. A continuation of the public hearing is scheduled for May 2.
Council would pass the capital improvement plan on May 16, along with a first reading of the budget ordinance. The second reading will take place on June 6.