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N. Kingstown to Face Difficult Budget Season

It's only September, but forecasts for the upcoming budget season are rolling in.

Though it feels like we just finished budget season, forecasts for next year’s budget are already swirling around – and it’s not too pretty, says Town Manager Michael Embury.

The repercussions of statewide pension reform will likely put North Kingstown in an even greater financial bind. According to Embury, NK would be expected to contribute $4 million to $4.2 million more into the system. With reform, Embury estimates this number would only drop to $2.2 million. With a tax cap of four percent for next year, North Kingstown can only raise $2.6 million in additional taxes.

“I need to emphasize that, when and if this package is put together by the general treasurer, you need to start sending emails and faxes to the legislative delegation,” Embury said to the audience.

North Kingstown is also facing a powered through the area at the end of last month. Embury remains hopeful that FEMA will pick up 70 to 75 percent of the cost, however.

North Kingstown will also have to replace two buses used at the soon, totaling more than $50,000. According to Embury, the primary bus – which is only five years old with more than 170,000 miles on it – has a “definite engine problem.” Right now, the town is working with RIDE to get shopping trips done for the seniors.

The North Kingstown Town Council also discussed scheduling a joint meeting with the School Committee at Monday night’s meeting. Last week, the committee requested a joint meeting to discuss the school department’s budget. The school’s budget will also be hit hard by the pension reform, as teacher’s pension obligation costs could rise anywhere from $2.5 million to $4 million, according to Superintendent Phil Auger. The council is tentatively looking at Oct. 17 as the date of the joint meeting.

The council also extended the moratorium on wind energy systems for another 90 days. , was originally only set for six months.  Currently, the council is considering until further research is conducted at the state level. Tuesday night, the North Kingstown Planning Commission will discuss wind energy siting and possibly make a recommendation to the town council.

The council also continued a hearing on a proposed village center at Rolling Greens Golf Course until Nov. 7 as it awaits a recommendation from the planning commission, expected at Tuesday's meeting.

NKGOP Watch September 20, 2011 at 07:42 PM
The LARGEST budget item is payroll and benefits BY FAR. Pay concessions anyone? Thats what private companies do, to survive!
BoatME September 21, 2011 at 02:54 AM
This town is so backwards. It complains about needing money and at the same time STRIVES to stifle new growth. You want to put money in your pockets? Stop saying NO to new developments. Stop being in the business of buying yourself out through open space purchases. Say YES to new houses and new families that will contribute more $ to the pot. Some townies still think it's 1855. Oh yeah, and the side effect of new development is economic growth and new jobs... who would have figured.
Govstench September 21, 2011 at 11:20 AM
North Kingstown is in the same position as many municipalities in this state. They have still not cut enough to pull in their numbers. They can't spin their way out of this one. There still has not been enough cuts in spending. Using past practices of going to the taxpayers to bail themselves out won't work anymore. People are taxed out and the protests have started. You have it with the car tax and it will start with the properties. North Kingstown and others have been living beyond their means to pay for it and it is finally catching up with them. North Kingstown is sitting on an $11 Million rainy day fund and finished last year with a surplus. The school department has been holding the line on spending but the municipal side has shown some leakage with some very questionable spending. Unless the manager implements some serious budget cutting, the rainy day fund will be in jepardy. In this tough economic climate, it doesn't take much to get into the red. The urban areas are having great difficulty getting out of the red and many won't. Municipal bonds is the taxpayer's credit card and it has been abused by many. The state continues to cut back on state aid to municipalities - the penalty has been handed out, the municipalities have to start cutting. Unless there is funding to back up a mandate, there is no need to enforce it. It's time to get serious with budgets and this manager has to man-up and start cutting.
grapejam September 21, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Cutting has occurred over the last 5 years. Personnel cutbacks have been implemented and program reductions have been recommended and not found favor with the public and/or Council. All of the supporting documentation is available on line.
Lynn Krim September 21, 2011 at 10:51 PM
"Unless there is funding to back up a mandate, there is no need to enforce it." I totally agree with this statement and I would love to see towns have the right to refuse to enforce any mandates that they deem are not necessary and in some instances make no sense for their citizens. .
john boscardin September 22, 2011 at 12:07 AM
Very true, At the last budget-go-round, Town manager Embry had a budget that reflected less than a two percent increase. By the end of that evenings meeting, the TC eliminated the cuts propsed by Embry and pushed it back well over three percent. This increase was led by Charlie Stamm and Carol Hueston.
john boscardin September 22, 2011 at 12:08 AM
Charlie did however, did vote to freeze pay increases.
Govstench September 22, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Then this council is at fault for not getting real with this budget. Count all of the for sale signs in town, some are friends and neighbors! How many of those signs will turn into foreclosure is the big crap shoot. Ask the manager or the TC if those pension payments to the state are up to date and current! If they have not kept up with them, then serious cuts must take place. There should not be any talk of pay raises for anyone in this economy. Just keeping a job is all you can expect. For those in the public that don't want their precious programs hurt, you will have a choice of much higher property taxes. Will your neighbors feel the same way? The lines are being drawn and it will be the pensioners against the taxpayers. Who gets burned? Which side of the line are you on? The pain will be real and will affect everyone. There is a cap on the budget and municipalities have been running to the state house to get waivers. If those waivers are approved, your property taxes will jump. Time to get real here people - the piper has arrived and is collecting. Oh, and let's not forget to sell the building.....that will help to go for the pension payments!
john boscardin September 22, 2011 at 03:06 AM
North Kingstown: 48 percent of retirement system unfunded: 48% or $75,645,400. Source: http://www.golocalprov.com/index.php/news/chart-the-worst-funded-pension-plans-in-ri/
Govstench September 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Another point to consider, municipal bond rating agencies take in a great deal of information on how to rate a city or town. Many municipalities are seeing downgrades due to this lousy economy. They look at the state in general to see how the overall picture is but they also check surrounding muncipalities as well. They also check to see what the current debt load is in that municipality and the ability of the taxpayer to make those payments. Included in that scan is foreclosures! Are residents being forced out of their homes and why....job loss, excessive taxation, etc. Woonsocket and Central Falls are in junk bond status. More urban cities are tilting in that direction. These are red flags for this state. Now there is the looming pension mess coming with all that unfunded liability to the municipalities. You simply cannot underwrite that kind of debt with a bond! The State of New York has an unfunded pension liability of less than a half billion dollars. Rhode Island has over 7 Billion dollars and that does not count the municipal pension system. Who is responsible for this great debt? I lay it on the public unions and their political agents in elected office. This is 4 decades of abuse and with this lousy economy, the swamp has been drained and we can finally see this mess for what it really is, and it is ugly.
trudy1 September 22, 2011 at 01:22 PM
The town has cut a lot from town employees, laid people off and restricted hiring. The problem, as it has been for years, is the school system. They have not recovered from the Halley mindset of spend, spend, spend. The recently departed Superintendent also seemed to have no concept of frugality. We need to address this promptly and severely and put people on a benefits/retirement age/pension plan similar to private industry. If the unions aren't willing to go along with this, lay off as many people as needed to reach a goal of solvency. If that means the remainder have to work a lot harder, so be it. The last time I looked, the school department was top heavy with useless people anyway.
Dave September 22, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Trudy, you aren't looking very hard at the facts.....I believe town employees have health care for life, that's a huge nut to pay. The School Dept has cut a lot of high level positions over the past 4 or 5 years.....they have kept the budget at almost 0 growth for 3 years. Both towns and schools need to change benefits packages and retirement.......let's be even handed.
NKtaxPAyerAlso September 22, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Dave, town employees do not have health care for life. Maybe your the one not looking very hard at the facts.
BoatME September 23, 2011 at 02:30 AM
You all have excellent ideas. Lets strip the town down to bare bones employees. No need for a transfer station.. burn your trash. Close the schools, street smarts are best smarts. No need for a fire department, grab a garden hose or drive your own broken butt to the hospital. No need for police either. Let people fight, rape, and rob till their hearts continent. It's Darwin's theory of evolution in real time. Only the strong will survive and North Kingstown will be a town of the purist kind. Great suggestions. Why don't we look to see where the money is being lost. The TC is pulling out of Quonset in leaps and bounds. That is HUGE tax revenue that will soon be lost forever. Quonset is a GIFT to North Kingstown, yet we ignore it's potential like the ugly kid in school.
NKGOP Watch September 23, 2011 at 03:31 AM
WRONG - New homes bring children. The home brings maybe $5000 per year in taxes, while EACH CHILD costs $13,000 per year to educate!
john boscardin September 23, 2011 at 03:42 AM
Wow talk about extemes! Dont believe anyone mentioned eliminating fire, rescue and police, just making the unfunded liabilities of these departments more managable. Also quonset is a state asset, not an asset of NK.
NKGOP Watch September 23, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Pay and Benefits have to be significantly adjusted downward. There simply is NO OTHER ALTERNATIVE. It's not the fault of the various employees, but when the dollars run out, that's the only solution. Sadly.
Govstench September 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM
North Kingstown needs to reel in pension-plan benefits and move any new hires into either 401(k)-style plans or a combination plan. If the town is managing it’s own pension plan, it should join the state-run MERS plan. Town Council needs to pass an ordinance that removes pension and other retirement benefits from the collective-bargaining process with unionized employees With North Kingstown pension plan 48% underfunded, due to being hampered by reductions in state aid and limits on property-tax. In addition, the town needs to slim down and get lean and mean. More cuts in the school budget are needed - get back to core values. Public education needs to slim down to basics. The public unions have put government into this position by forcing these liberal programs. To support these programs, you need a strong economy. Rhode Island has an anemic economy at best. With the large inventory of vacant business space, that equates to loss tax revenue to the town. The town is forced to go after the taxpayers through property taxes. They further compounded the problem by lowering the exemption on the car tax. That in itself is enough to scare any future prospects to move into this state. It is having an adverse affect on the real estate markets. People are bypassing RI to work and live in Massachusetts. We are not competitive with the neighboring states!
seed and soil September 23, 2011 at 07:16 PM
.An additional note in regard to town versus school expenses. Having known many who work on both sides of the fence, I have often heard that hiring practices on the town side are not what they should be. Certainly not best professional business standard practice. On the town side, hiring is very often based on personal connections, and length of services as opposed to purely your educational and experience background. Having employees that are not up to date on the latest technology use and practice often greatly reduces efficiency at a great cost to the taxpayer. Teachers and administrators are held to a different, much stricter standard in terms of qualifications and experience level. This appears to be a fund consuming area that has been over looked on the town side for far too long.
BoatME September 24, 2011 at 02:53 AM
John: you couldn't be more wrong about Quonset not a NK asset. From what the rumor mill has spun up: The TC did not allow the new hotel to put in a restaurant and/or bar. That effects 1% meal tax. The town used to get $ for every imported car that came off those boats on the pier. I was told that was kissed away also. The town used to make money from the NK fire marsal doing inspections. That was outsourced to the state. Money is chugging right by.
BoatME September 24, 2011 at 02:56 AM
I think the police and fire have to take standardized tests and state tests to qualify and pass a state academy. I don't think those jobs are handed out. Public works, maybe. anyone can push a lawnmower.
john boscardin September 24, 2011 at 04:03 AM
NKPatchfollower, look it up..its easy just google quonset. It is overseen by the QDC(quonset development corporation). The QDC is the "governing body" of quonset. It is geographically in NK, but owned by the state.
john boscardin September 24, 2011 at 04:04 AM
I think the $$ per car goes directly to the state.
Govstench September 24, 2011 at 12:14 PM
18 of the 39 municipalities have dropped the exemption on cars to $500. North Kingstown is still at $3,000 but if they have their way, it will go the same as the rest. The tax revenue on the cars goes to the municipalities. First they tax you out of your house and now they want to impound the car. This tax needs to be repealed.
Govstench September 24, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Moody's Investor Service has dropped Coventry's bond rating one notch, citing concerns about its "insufficient" funding of the town and police pension plans. In a report issued Wednesday, the rating agency announced that it was dropping the town's bond rating from Aa3 to A1 and maintaining a negative outlook for the community. "The rating downgrade and negative outlook reflect the continued insufficient funding of both the Town and Police Pension Plans. Is North Kingstown next? These rating agencies are watching RI very carefully.
Steve Sironen October 20, 2011 at 01:41 AM
I am glad to see we have so many people with GREAT ideas about what we should be doing as a town. What that shows me is that there should be a hell of a lot more candidates for TC and SC. Each side of the table is going to blame the other for this financial crisis. Everyone has had their chance in life to choose an occupation to support their future, or their families. Some people went the private sector route, and some the public. You can see what the requirements are for all Police, Fire and all public positions at the town halls. They are held to these standards, and it is not like it was 25 years ago when it mattered who you knew. You have to do the work, yourself, and pass all of the qualifications. If not, you don't get considered for the position. Just like at a computer company, or an investment firm, you have to be qualified for the job. If you are not, then you don't get considered for the job. Run for office if you have all the answers.
Dave October 20, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Mr. Stamm did in fact motion to do so, however, that was only after Dick Welch came into their meeting with spreadsheets of numbers showing the pay cuts the NKSD had implemented, essentially the TC had to be shamed into it. The SC has cut 3 years in a row, the TC only cut pay increases last year after being pushed into it. The TC went to the cap and took all the money 3 years in a row, while cutting the schools to level growth, let's see what they do this year. It's been a real travesty.
Govstench December 29, 2011 at 11:47 AM
To throw some life into this blog, let me add that EP just had a budget commission formed from the state statute passed recently. It also takes the powers away from the City Council and School Committee. They become advisory only. The Dept. of Revenue felt that the financial problems of this city was too great for the overseer to handle. This commission will work on the following areas: update the levy and assessment of taxes, rulemaking or suspensions of rules, adoption of a municipal budget, approval of collective bargaining agreements and amendments to collective bargaining agreements; and making a determination that the powers of the budget commission are insufficient to restore fiscal stability to the city or town. In other words, they are the bosses. If a council or school committee are so mired in their own political differences, their powers will be transfered to a state commission to bring the municipality back. The Manager and the Mayor(President of the Council) are members of this Commission but their powers are limited to one vote each. So if North Kingstown is smart, they will get smart and start cutting out the fat in this budget - also, the school department has some serious cutting to do also. If the contracts have to be reopened, DO IT. Otherwise, the commission will do it for you!

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