Bradford Fire District trims its tax rate and approves its budget at annual meeting

Bradford Fire District trims its tax rate and approves its budget at annual meeting

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — Bradford Fire District voters approved a $101,991 budget for 2017-18, a $2,532 reduction from the current $104,523 spending plan, during the district’s annual meeting Tuesday.

Outgoing Tax Assessor Mark Berardo said he anticipates the new tax rate being set at 76 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The current tax rate is 79 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The budget and tax-rate reductions are possible due to a reduction in spending resulting from a decision to contract with Vision Government Solutions, a Providence-based mass assessment firm, to handle preparing and sending out the district’s annual tax bills and a corresponding reduction in the tax collector and treasurer’s salary from a total of $5,000 to $2,000, a reduction in legal advertising costs, and the hiring of a new accountant at a lesser cost.

Voters also approved three changes to the district’s bylaws.

References to the former Board of Engineers were removed to reflect the district’s decision to contract with Dunn’s Corners Fire District for fire-protection services. The arrangement first began in 2014 and removed the need for the Bradford Fire District to have a Board of Engineers, Bradford officials said Tuesday. The new annual contract with Dunn’s Corners for fire protection costs the district $59,861, $2 more than last year’s contract.

The contract with Dunn’s Corners also allowed voters to reduce the number of tax assessors in the district from three to one. Finally, voters approved changes to the legal notice requirements for annual meetings of the district. The district had previously paid for legal notices to be published once a week for three consecutive weeks in The Sun. Under the new system, one notice will be published in The Sun two weeks before the meeting and property owners will also be notified of the annual meeting by postcard.

District Moderator Frank Manfredi informed voters that the district’s effort to sell a 3.7-acre district-owned parcel on North Woody Hill Road continues to flounder. The district has been trying for several years to sell the land but learned this year that home construction on the land will require installation of a denitrification septic system due to the presence of nearby wetlands. The systems are more expensive than traditional septic systems. Voters approved a motion to give Manfredi “latitude” in efforts to market the land for sale. A final sale would require the approval of voters at an annual or special meeting, officials said.

Grace Williams, the district’s former treasurer and tax collector, resigned immediately once voters approved the budget, which would have seen her salary cut. Williams said the $5,000 she had previously been paid was too little to cover the amount of time required for her two positions. She also accused Manfredi of “doing what he wants and bringing all of his friends in.”

“What are you people doing? I can’t believe it,” Williams said.

After the meeting, Manfredi said he was simply trying to reduce costs for the district’s taxpayers.

Manfredi was elected to another term as moderator and Al Clemence was re-elected to a new term as clerk. Berardo was elected to serve as tax collector. Dan King was elected to serve as tax assessor and Joyce Stanczyk was elected to serve as treasurer.

Just 14 district residents voted.


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