It’s early but we’re hopeful that the annual budget process is off to a good start in Westerly this year. School and municipal leaders met Monday to discuss overarching goals for each body and how they intend to reach those goals.And there was some talk too about the format of the school budget because if it’s budget season in Westerly there’s talk about the school budget format and bringing it into 21st-century transparency.
This is Superintendent Mark Garceau’s first shot at a budget here and we have to believe he understands the task at hand regarding others being able to decipher the proposed education budget. And we hope he feels this is a small matter. A small matter in that many of us are confounded by how this goal could have been considered for so long as a Herculean task — which is how the previous superintendent and finance director made it seem — with the technology that exists in 2017.
Garceau said he plans to use Cranston as a model. We’ve heard Chariho has a more readable format that Westerly’s previous documents as well. This is a ludicrous discussion at this point since it has been a topic for several years now, with Finance Board Chairman D. Jay Goodman making it his personal goal to get a document that makes even a basic analysis possible. We’ll stand by to see where this edition of this battle goes this year.
On the municipal side we are encouraged by Town Manager Derrik Kennedy’s approach to create a three-year road improvement plan that calls for residents to vote on borrowing for road projects every three years. Kennedy and others would develop a list of roads to be repaired for each round of funding.
He also is proposing the creation of other accounts to build revenue over time to fund expenses for infrastructure improvements, replacement vehicles and recreation facilities, which are the subject of a town effort to create a master plan for public recreation opportunities and facilities.
We also like his idea to include in this year’s budget process a discussion about the need to codify the collaborative approach between the town and school district for maintenance of athletic fields. The collaboration has been problematic since it started years ago when consolidation was the key word in municipalities large and small grappling with the recession.
Additionally, Kenney wants to shore up the municipal pension fund and surplus in hopes of improving the town’s bond rating, which in turn lowers interest rates the town has to pay when borrowing for projects.
It’s early, but the budget process in Westerly appears to be off to a good start.